When Mike Trout went down with a torn ligament in his left hand, Angels fans everywhere panicked. I was one of them, and even wrote about how this ruins the season for the Halos. However, after watching this team play, I believe they will be fine.
As it stands now, the LA Angels are 29-31 with a 13.5 game deficit on the Houston Astros in the AL West. No, the Angels will not win the AL West. The Astros are arguably the best team in baseball and will more than likely run away with the AL West crown.
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Everyone has all but written off the Angels as playoff contenders since Mike Trout has gone down. However, the team still has the potential to keep afloat, if not succeed without Trout. There are a few reasons for this.
The LA Angels have heart. They have won the majority of their games via the comeback and have shown their never-say-die attitude with a handful of late-inning comebacks. Now, the team realizes they must rally without their superstar center fielder, and this all starts with the guy replacing him.
Eric Young Jr. has played for a few teams throughout his MLB career, but found himself signing a minor league deal with the Angels in January. He had played well in Triple-A all season and warranted a promotion. This season, what could be a career resurgence, comes after the worst offseason imaginable. Young Jr. and his wife, Victoria, lost their newborn son early this year. However, Young Jr. has decided to turn this tragedy into motivation. He has spoken numerous times about how he hopes to inspire people by continuing to work hard through, even with the bad hand he was dealt.
This is seen when watching Angels games now. This team is all together, and they are playing with heart and it is in large part due to Young Jr. He has impressed on the field so far, going 8-23 (.348) with two doubles and a home run (game-winning homerun*). He has been exceptional in the field while also swiping two bags.
The usual role players for the Halos have been stepping up as of late. Kole Calhoun, who is experiencing an unusually cold season at the plate, seems to finally be turning it on. The Red Baron is riding a six-game hitting streak since Trout went down. During this streak, he is hitting .429 with three big flies and five RBI’s. He has scored himself five times, and has been his usual highlight reel in right field. He has also walked four times (bringing his on-base percentage to .520) while only striking out twice.
Yunel Escobar also seems to be picking up where he left off prior to an injury that sidelined him for nearly three weeks. He had brought his batting average up 34 points in 12 games in May. Since his return, he has a four-game hitting streak. He has been exceptional in this stretch, going 7-16 (.438) with an RBI. Escobar hitting well is exactly what the Angels need, as no one was able to fill in the leadoff spot as well as Escobar can. If he continues to get on base, it allows Calhoun to drive him in.
Mr. 600 himself is the final Angel who can lead this offense in Trout’s absence. While he has not been hitting extremely well over the past week, much of that can be attributed to his pursuit of #600. He was swinging for the fences every time, and at any pitch that he could touch. Instead, let’s look at his career numbers. The Machine is historically a better hitter in the summer. His averages in June, July, and August are .313, .312, and .323, respectively. He has hit 308 career home runs in these months as well. Last year, in the second half of the season he hit .293 with 16 long balls and 59 RBI’s. Before he hit #599 and began swinging crazy, he was playing well. In 34 at-bats, he had 12 hits (.353). In those nine games, he scored seven times, hit three homers, and drove in 11 runs.
The team is playing well at the moment, and is receiving even more reinforcements.
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Injured Players Returning
The LA Angels have undoubtedly caught the injury bug this season, especially on the mound. However, a handful of injured players could be returning while Trout heals. Cameron Maybin, who had an unbelievable stretch in May, is on the 10-day DL with an oblique injury. He brings value as both a hitter and fielder, and will most likely take over center field and push Young Jr. to left upon his return. After Escobar went down, Maybin took over the leadoff spot and raised his batting average nearly 40 points over the month. He will most likely slot into the fifth or sixth spot in the order when he returns. He should return by mid-June at the latest.
Cam Bedrosian is also due to return this month, though he could be back any day now. Bedrosian was the closer before he went to the DL, but it remains unclear whether or not he will resume that due to Bud Norris’ resurgence in the role this year. Whoever does not take the closing job will be the premier setup man for the Halos, which makes the later innings all the more easier for the Halos.
Tyler Skaggs is also eyeing a return in June. He is pushing for the end of June, but early or mid-July is more likely. The Halos rotation has not been awful, but it could definitely use a solid arm like Skaggs. After allowing five runs in each of his first two starts, Skaggs found his groove in his next three. He pitched a total of 19 innings, allowing three runs (1.42 ERA), and no home runs after giving up three in his first two starts. He also induced nine groundouts a game in his last three starts. The emphasis he put on keeping the ball on the ground not only kept runs off the board, but also did not affect his strikeouts as he had 19 in the last three starts.
These returns, along with the heart the Angels have shown and the hot hitters, are enough for the Angels to stay in the Wild Card race until Mike Trout returns. And then, who knows what can happen?