2017 Fantasy Baseball, Los Angeles Angels Team Preview
The Angels are the new White Sox. They’ve changed management off the field, but they’ve kept the same philosophy in general. The idea is that they are always one or two players away from being competitive. That certainly makes sense with Mike Trout and Albert Pujols in tow, but you need more than the best player in baseball to be competitive. So, they added a few functional players to add to the lineup, but they are little more than functional. It will be good enough for them to finish third or fourth in the competitive AL West.
Top Draft Picks
It’s Mike Trout’s world and the rest of us are just simply living in it. Trout has been the consensus number one overall pick in most fantasy platforms for several seasons now. Occasionally, someone will threaten to break into that world. Last season it was Bryce Harper. This year it might be Mookie Betts or Jose Altuve. Make no mistake though, Trout should be the guy for the foreseeable future. He combines 40 home run potential with 20 to 30 stolen bases, a .300 average, and 100 walks per season. He is the complete offensive package.
High Upside Sleepers
What the Angels have done is put a capable major league player at every position. They added Cameron Maybin and Danny Espinosa to play left field and second base respectively. While they bring a baseline of performance the Angels did not have a season ago, neither are probably worth a draft pick. The only other position player that could be a considered a sleeper is right fielder Kole Calhoun.
A deeper lineup combined with another year of development could vault Calhoun up to the next level. He’s averaged 20 homers a season the last three years, but could easily take the next step to hit 25 or 30 home runs this season. The deeper lineup could contribute to seeing him surpass 90 runs and RBI as well. There are quite a few outfielders that will produce better than that, but as a middle round target you could do a lot worse.
The prospects on the mound are bleak to say the least, but Garrett Richards is returning from injury and could serve as a quality end of the rotation fantasy starter. He was a 15 game winner in 2015, but most fantasy players will forget that following an injury riddled 2016 campaign. Given the bullpen issues this team is likely to have, I wouldn’t bet on that many wins, but the other numbers should be decent enough.
High Downside Busts
There is nothing quite as insidious as the memory of a great player. Pujols will go down as the second best first baseman in the history of the game when all is said and done. That’s not the player he is now. Each passing season shows that his skills are eroding. He walks fewer times each season and strikes out more often. He has still hit 30+ home runs and driven in 100+ runs a season since becoming an Angel, but there are probably ten to twelve first basemen you would rather have than him. Still, someone in your league will convince himself that Pujols was just hampered by a foot problem and will suddenly return to the guy that dominated the 2000s. Don’t be that person.
It is Huston Street’s job to lose at this point. He suffered through a horrendous 2016 season where he saved nine games and saw his ERA balloon above six. Injuries can be blamed on that, but a quick look at his Fangraphs page shows his velocity has gone from 91.7 MPH to 88.2 MPH. That might not seem like much, but three miles per hour can send a pitcher from dominant (if he has other good secondary stuff) to dominated.
Cam Bedrosian has the bloodlines and his raw numbers from last season were ridiculously good. He sported a 1.12 ERA in 45 games last season. The difference was improved control over previous seasons. He is penciled in as the setup man, but if Street struggles again they may just give him the job full-time. Our older fantasy players will remember Steve Bedrosian from the late 1980s and 1990s. That would be his father.
Impact Minor Leaguers
Herein lies the rub. There aren’t any. ESPN’s Keith Law rated the Angels farm system in 2016 as not only the worst in the game, but the worst he has seen in the last 20 years. Somehow, the Diamondbacks won that honor this offseason, but the Angels are still there near the bottom. Not a single prospect ranks amongst MLB.com’s top 100. Of their top ten prospects, only Nate Smith and Vicente Campos are projected to reach the majors in 2017. Neither have numbers or prospects grades that inspire any confidence.
Albert Pujols had the largest gap between runs scored and runs driven in in the history of MLB. He drove in a remarkable 119 runs but scored only 71 runs. That gap (48 runs) is the largest for any player that has driven in more than 100 runs. With only 82 runs created, Pujols cemented himself as a potential bust.