A new year has arrived, and as this turn of the page reminds us of the year we’ve just lived it brings excitement for what is to come. For Angels fans, things look good. Our team still lays claim to having finished with the best regular season in baseball, the reigning MVP will be playing at the age of 23 and the team looks very similar to what we enjoyed this past season. To begin this new year with good cheer, lets look at all we have in-store.
First off is, of course,
. A look at
proves the stunning fact we all know: Mike Trout is our
. He’s the number one player comparison through this point of his career. If he deviates off that path a bit, there are a some respectable fall back comparisons. Math unbiasedly lists
the next most similar to our center fielder.
What will he bring us this year? Not only another MVP caliber season, but another historic one. At 22, Mickey Mantle hit 27 home runs, Trout hit 36. The Mick followed up by leading the league with 37 home runs, Trout encored with — Aren’t we excited to see?
Anything more than Trout is just a side-dish, but hey mashed potatoes are pretty great too. For the feast of the season ahead we can dine on the frustrated looks of batters whiffing at Garrett Richards darting fastballs and Matt Shoemaker’s tumbling splitter. Richards may be coming back from injury, but he’s looking good for starting the season on time, or very nearly. When a player with promise produces a breakthrough season we all question if he can repeat or improve upon it. This is that year for Mr. Richards. With our beloved beard, Shoemaker, we’re eager to find out if he was for real.
A year ago at this time, we had great hope for Richards who had long been recognized as a young pitcher with incredible stuff. Whether that talent would mature into an arsenal of mass offensive destruction was questionable. His emergence was so dominant, analysts saw his injury as being a death blow to the teams offseason hopes. Getting there was no issue as the Angels tore their way into an easy AL West win. His absence likely meant much more to the teams postseason chances. One win from Richards may have set-up a very different postseason. With a full healthy season we’ll watch contending Cy Young and MVP players lead us into an exciting September and beyond.
Shoemaker was the feel good story of our year. It’s often the players who rise up to unexpected heights that carry teams through the war of an entire season. Mike Scioscia even admitted to Shoemaker’s role as team hero. We loved watching the lovable overachiever devour his way through the best lineups in the league whilst leaving crumbs of them in his magniglorious (it’s deserving of a new adjective) beard. He was rightly named as runner-up in Rookie of the Year voting. He became the franchise leader in wins as a rookie and went 5-1 with a 2.03 ERA while opposing All-star starters. In-between starts he single handedly led the revolution which toppled the fierce dictatorship of — ok, so that ones still classified. What does the savior of 2014 have in store for 2015? All I know for sure is grit. Big heaping piles of un-sabermetrically quantifiable grit.
By my estimation, Jerry Dipoto’s greatest achievement as General Manager is the transformation of the teams pitching depth. Young pitching to boot. Without injuries the Angels rotation looks to be Richards, Jered Weaver, Shoemaker, C.J. Wilson, Andrew Heaney, Hector Santiago, Nick Tropeano and Jose Alvarez. Fans are not just interested in the teams present but also the future. Players will come and go but we’ll remain fans long into our golden years. The additions of Heaney (a top 20 prospect) and Tropeano (3.32 FIP in Houston last year) give the Angels a combined 12 years of cost controlled pitching. They each tasted the big leagues last season but they will get a full meal this year. Can they handle it? There are sure to be a few hiccups along the way, yet if they can live up to expectations, the Angels will have solid and, in the case of Heaney, perhaps star levels of production. A glimpse into our future will come into view shortly.
After years of a barren farm system, there’s now hope of a new young stud. Sean Newcomb, a well built left handed pitcher who draws comparisons to Jon Lester, was the Angels first round draft pick last July. In one of the few games he pitched as a pro he fanned 10 in just four innings. Considered by many scouts to potentially rise to the majors quickly, he could become more rotation depth very soon. This year, watch for Newcomb to establish himself as one of the top prospects in all of baseball.
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We’ve frustratingly watched a crop of International stars arise these past few years, while Angels fans couldn’t understand why a team with so much money would let them all slip by. Then out of nowhere, a 20-year-old Cuban amateur named Roberto Baldoquin signed for a record amount of money. Why? Well, Jerry Dipoto and a scout or two must have really liked him. Baseball writers didn’t know what to write because they didn’t know who he was, or why the Angels spent so much for him. Their international bonus pool was blatantly blown through, incurring not only monetary penalties but essentially barring them from signing any top young Latin talent the next two years. With such an unknown, hopes run high and fans will are eager to see just who this kid is.
After there first division win in five years we couldn’t wait to see October baseball in Anaheim. The month was short and sour. Three straight losses to the Royals and we have to wait for October 2015. But, will we even make it? Great thought can be played out in our minds as to how the season will unfold. It keeps fans going in these short days of winter. The beauty of baseball is in the playing and the unexpected stories with characters unknown or deeds unimagined that make the season live. Soon, we’ll no longer be spectators but witnesses to another great season of the unpredictable game of baseball.