The LA Angels enter 2nd half of the season with a renewed hope.

ANAHEIM, CA - MAY 29: Albert Pujols
ANAHEIM, CA - MAY 29: Albert Pujols /

The LA Angels struggled through a roller coaster first half of the 2017 season with many peaks and valleys.  The Angels ended up with a record of 43-45 and they sit just three games back of wild-card leaders the Yankees & Rays.

Considering all the LA Angels have had to endure the first 88 games of this season it is amazing that they are still in contention for a wild-card berth.  Just like in 2016 the injuries came early and often with both closer Huston Street and first baseman Luis Valbuena going down even before the season started.  It was followed quickly by injuries to Garrett Richards in his first start of the season and it was followed by injuries to relievers Andrew Bailey and Cam Bedrosian later in the month.

Just when the Angels were starting to look like they were starting to come together the worst thing that could happen in most Angel fans minds, reigning MVP Mike Trout suffered a thumb injury that forced him to the disabled list for the first time in his career.

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Most people thought the Angels would collapse with Trout out, but instead they held their own.  The Angels beat the Detroit Tigers and the Houston Astros on the road in consecutive three-games series.  The Angels followed it up by beating the Yankees and a week later they beat the Yankees and the Red Sox on the road and finally ended the LA Dodgers 10-game winning streak and split the four-game series with their I-5 neighbors.

With that being said the fact that the Angels are in the wild-card race instead of being on the outside looking in has to be considered as a blessing.  This 2017 team has heart and yes they do have talent as well.  You may not see the Angels make any blockbuster trade at the deadline, but their trade deadline moves may come from within.

With Mike Trout back as of today and a few of those aforementioned pitchers are on the mend the best things the Angels could do is stand pat.  It may not be the popular move, but it is probably the right move.  Why give away some of your limited amount of prospects to possibly rent a pitcher for a few months? Now if they could get someone either pitcher or hitter that could fill a void or bolster the team’s chances that has a few years left on their contract that might be a different story.

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I know many people are skeptical that all our pitchers will be healthy and ready to go next year, but if they are then the Angels have a plethora of starters available next year.  Imagine a staff of Garrett Richards, Andrew Heaney, Tyler Skaggs, and Nick Tropeano. Then throw in Alex Meyer and Matt Shoemaker as well as J.C. Ramirez into the mix and suddenly you have a very formidable staff potentially.  This is why I believe acquiring a starter for the short-tem is not the best option.

Now we have talked about certain scenarios here but with the exception of Trout none of the pitchers on the DL are a sure thing to be back this season.  As of right now both Matt Shoemaker and Garrett Richards are not allowed to pick up a baseball and throw.  The report Richards got earlier in the week was favorable as his nerve condition is improving, but there is no timetable as to when he will be able to start throwing.

Shoemaker’s rehab was shut down last week after he experienced some arm soreness the day after his first rehab start.  So he is up in the air.  Tyler Skaggs however seems to be moving closer to doing a couple of rehab starts in the minors and could be ready by early August if all goes well.

The biggest surprise though is lefty Andrew Heaney who is just over a year removed from Tommy John Surgery to repair a torn UCL in his arm.  Heaney actually pitched in his first game since last April yesterday.  Heaney took the mound for the Angels rookie league team against the Royals in Arizona.

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While Heaney’s numbers did not look great 1.2 innings, five hits , three earned runs, and four strikeouts, it was still a step in the right direction.  In an interesting twist of fate he could come sooner than any of the other three pitchers do. Heaney could feasibly be back in early to mid-August if everything continues to go well.  However, the Angels will probably be the most cautious with Heaney due to the nature of his injury and him being way ahead of his original timetable.

If even two of these four pitchers return to form it would majorly bolster the Angels playoff chances.  However their chances have already been bolstered by the return of Mike Trout.  Adding Trout to a line-up makes everyone else that much better.

“That’s what I love about our team is you have seen what they have done without Trout. The sky is the limit with him back in the line-up,” Angels pitcher Matt Shoemaker said. “We have a great team with great potential, we’ve just got to go out there and play.”

Trout being backs does not solve all the Angels offensive woes, (Angels average a league worst 4.10 runs per game) but it most definitely helps a great deal.  The potential line-up tonight would have Cameron Maybin leading off, Kole Calhoun batting second, Trout in his familiar third spot, Albert Pujols batting in the clean-up spot and then Yunel Escobar, Luis Valbuena, and Andrelton Simmons in the fifth through seventh spot.

With the exception of Valbuena the rest of the top seven have had periods where they have been on fire and adding Trout will surely increase their opportunities to drive in runs or score runs. As for Valbuena and second baseman Danny Espinosa who have both underperformed in a big way, you almost got to believe that they will get better given the chance. They may never get to .270 or .280 this season, but even if both can raise their averages to around .220 or .225 and each hit 10 home runs a piece that would be a major lift.

I say we roll with both of them and see what happens at least for this season. You can give C.J. Cron or Cliff Pennington spot starts, but let’s see what if Valbuena and Espinosa could do now with Trout back in the line-up. This should lessen the pressure on everyone to produce as much trying to make up for Trout’s absence.

However, I still believe the pitching will be what ultimately be what will carry us to the playoffs or to the bottom of the league.  A staff currently consisting of  Ricky Nolasco, J.C. Ramirez, Parker Bridwell, Jesse Chavez, and most likely Alex Meyer is not one I would want to bet the house on.  However they have all shown flashes of brilliance. Furthermore if the Angels do get some of those injured starters back they could definitely go on a roll and take a wild-card spot and who knows after that.

Mike Trout agrees with my sentiments. “I’m anxious to get back and help the team and hopefully we can get on a roll here in the 2nd half,” Trout said.

Next: Angels survive stretch without Mike Trout and live to fight another day

All in all I am cautiously optimistic about the Angels chances in the second half as the team has shown a lot of heart and a willingness to fight and not give up in the face of adversity.  We will see what happens, but my prediction for the second half is a 42-32 record which would put the Angels at 85-77 and give them an opportunity to take one of the two wild-card spots.