When the LA Angels hired Billy Eppler to be their general manager, they knew things would change. From that day until now, and into the future, Eppler’s focus is the farm system. And now, in Spring Training, there is obviously something new…and exciting.
In the past, Spring Training for the LA Angels was nothing special. Sure, seeing the starters and the usual names was always exciting after a long winter. However, the names that filled out the rest of camp always seemed to just be throw-in players. Guys who weren’t young prospects, but aging veterans or players trying to revitalize their careers (often without success).
Last year was different. Spring Training in 2018 was something new, and that was largely because of Shohei Ohtani. However, this can be forgotten after his Rookie of the Year season, but Spring Training was nothing but disappointment for Halo fans, and ammunition for Shohei haters.
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The Japanese phenom (to-be) posted a 27.00 ERA in two starts while hitting .125 with ten strikeouts in 32 at bats. So even though the Angels and their fans had that top prospect in their camp, it was extremely underwhelming for everyone involved.
However, this year is different.
It has been obvious ever since pitchers and catchers reported. This Spring Training is not all about Mike Trout (though his contract situation has garnered its fair share of headlines) and how the rest of the team fits around him. While that is obviously important, in the past that has all that mattered for Angels fans.
But now we have Jo Adell, one of the top prospects in all of baseball, hustling down first base. He is the future of the outfield, whether it is next to Mike Trout or not. Then there is infielder Taylor Ward dropping to one knee to send a ball over the fence for a grand slam. After a disappointing year in 2018, he is not ready to give up his chance at a starting spot.
Matt Thaiss, a first baseman picked in the first round a few years ago, taking ground balls alongside Albert Pujols in practice, then driving a double down the line in the first game. Of course there is Jared Walsh as well, the two-way prospect who could be changing the definition of utility man in the MLB.
After them, there are players like Brandon Marsh, Jahmai Jones, and Brennon Lund, all of whom have the skill to contribute in the MLB at some point this season. All of these guys named are prospects for the Angels, but Billy Eppler won’t be able to hold them in the minors much longer.
Mike Trout’s contract, unless an extension is signed, will dominate the Angels’ headlines for the next two seasons. However, with this new injection of youth in Tempe for the Halos, there are two outcomes. Either Trout leads this young group of guys for the next decade, or they all band together to win without him.