For the LA Angels, the high point of the 2018 season thus far came in mid-April, when the Angels were in first place, (almost) everyone was healthy, and the great expectations of the winter we’re becoming the great performances of reality. April is an eternity’s distance in the rear view mirror.
By now, it should be obvious to everyone that the LA Angels are not going to be able to buy themselves a contender. If there’s one final lesson to be learned from 2018, it’s that free agent stars are add-ons, but they can’t be the house. Without a foundation, free agents add-ons built on sand.
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However, that doesn’t necessarily mean this season has been an utter failure. If the Angels play their cards right, this year could be the jumping-off point for building an actual, sustainable contender. With the prospects acquired in the trades of Kinsler to Boston and Martin Maldonado to Houston, the Angels now have a second talented starting pitching prospect in Patrick Sandoval to go with Griffin Canning, and Ty Buttrey instantly becomes the best relief prospect in the Angel system. With the rest of the system ready to churn out talent for the first time in five years, the Angels have the makings of a sustainable contender coming around.
For the rest of 2018, however, that does mean the end of any thoughts of contending. Rather than focusing on the disappointment of another empty October, however, fans of the big club who don’t follow the farm system should focus on a few key players. With Kinsler gone, David Fletcher will inherit second base. .350/.394/.559 at Triple-A Salt Lake looks great on the minor league resumé, more than good enough to give Fletcher every opportunity, and he will likely play everyday from here on out. Kole Calhoun has experienced a weird, almost miraculous resurrection since the death of his career in April and May. Since coming back in mid-June from a vacation at Salt Lake, the Red Baron has hit .298 with 12 homers in just 124 at-bats.
On the pitching end, Blake Parker and Cam Bedrosian have been both maddeningly inconsistent — which means that they’ve also been really good when they’re not being really bad. Bedrosian has been very strong since the beginning of June: in his last 24 games, Bedrock has owned a 1.93 ERA, finally finding a groove he hadn’t been able to stay in for nearly a year. On the other hand, Parker had a 28-game stretch where he was nearly untouchable (2.17 ERA, .188 opponent batting average) only to fall apart, allowing runs in three of the next four games.
Parker’s inexplicable stretches of ineffectiveness makes him scary, even has his overall performance still feels strong. Shohei Ohtani is always worth watching, and now that contention is out of the question, the Angels can be cautious in working the two-way star back into the rotation. Ohtani’s right arm is insanely valuable, but as he’s proven beyond question, his bat will play in the big leagues, and the Angels desperately need the offense he brings. A healthy Ohtani pitching and DHing will be key to any sort of contention in 2020.
And of course, Mike Trout is always worth watching. The Best Player In Baseball is having one of the best seasons in baseball history. Enjoy it.
Most fans will remember 2018 as yet another disappointing season. In many ways, it has been. However, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing left to watch, and that doesn’t mean there’s plenty of good things coming soon. Just not this year.