LA Angels are finally building around Mike Trout long term

ANAHEIM, CA - APRIL 8: Mike Trout #27 of the Los Angeles Angels smiles at owner Arte Moreno (L) and manager Mike Scioscia after receiving a Silver Slugger Award prior to a start of a baseball game against the Texas Rangers at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on April 8, 2016 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - APRIL 8: Mike Trout #27 of the Los Angeles Angels smiles at owner Arte Moreno (L) and manager Mike Scioscia after receiving a Silver Slugger Award prior to a start of a baseball game against the Texas Rangers at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on April 8, 2016 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images) /

It happened, Mike Trout is going to be an Angel for the next 12 years. The 12 year, $430 million dollar deal the Angels offered Trout shows a long needed commitment towards building their long-term brand around Trout.

It’s crazy to think that the Angels have had Mike Trout in the MLB for eight years and are just barely beginning to build the Angels brand around thim. It always seemed like the Angels weren’t building around Trout but instead stacking pieces randomly together with little rhyme and zero reason. That’s not actually true, they had plenty of reasoning behind the lacking moves they’ve made throughout the majority of Trouts career.

The Angels built the team around former manager Mike Scioscia and team owner Arte Moreno, with the logic mainly being what would keep Arte popular and what Scioscia wanted in the lineup. If the team was building around Mike Trout you would have to think they wouldn’t have made moves such as letting Torii Hunter walk in free agency by telling him that they “didn’t have the money to sign him” and then turning around and giving Josh Hamilton over $100 million to essentially replace him.

Torii Hunter and Mike Trout had an incredible connection and the mentorship from Hunter was unrivaled. I know that they brought in Albert Pujols and he’s been a great mentor for Trout in terms of approaching the game in the proper manner for a superstar.

However, lets not pretend that the presence of Hunter wouldn’t be better for Trout as Hunter was a strong, vocal leader who also lead by example by playing his heart out on the field. The Angels let that go happily so they could sign Josh Hamilton simply because Arte liked the big splash move and Scioscia wanted to go for the big fancy bat over pitching as always.

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There’s also the sore point of Zack Greinke being lost in free agency after the Angels claimed they had no money to re-sign him yet they turn around and throw 100+ million for Josh Hamilton. If the team was concerned about building around Trout they would have given him the proper pitching to compete at the time, but instead they build around what looks good on paper and on the billboards.

If they wanted to build around Trout and give him the best chances to lead the team to success they wouldn’t have traded the undervalued-at-the-time Mike Napoli and let the Rangers get their hands on him and turn him in to an All-Star while keeping the Angels out of the playoffs by crushing them at every opportunity.

Prior to 2015 the Angels had no real vision for what they wanted to do with the organization before Billy Eppler came in and has completely changed the direction of this organization by building from the bottom up around Trout. We saw it immediately with moves like trading for the defensively gifted Anderlton Simmons from the Braves and helping him nurture offensive capability. You have the shrewd drafting of future star outfielders in Brandon Marsh and Jo Adell, the ace of the future in Griffin Canning, and overall all the under-the-radar drafts of guys like Jared Walsh, Jack Kruger and Jose Rojas.

Eppler has brought in future anchors in the MLB roster with trades for prospects such as SS Luis Rengifo and LHP Patrick Sandoval. Luis Rengifo was another under-the-radar move as Rengifo was seen as a fringe prospect when he came to LA from Tampa Bay in the 2018 C.J Cron trade. Likewise, people completely overlooked the Patrick Sandoval score when the Angels fleeced the Astros by sending two-months of C Martin Maldonado for complete control of the then 21-year-old Patrick Sandoval.

People like to say that if the Angels can’t succeed because they don’t have pitching, and while it looks like an average to pretty decent stable at best there is still a very bright future. Jaime Barria showed us, in his 2018 rookie season, that he can perform admirably as a mid-rotation piece with the possibility for a higher ceiling (129.1 IP, 3.53 ERA).

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You also have Griffin Canning and Patrick Sandoval just a small step away from being legitimate MLB pieces; Canning is already used to the life of an ace as he pitched as the “Friday Night Ace” at UCLA before being drafted by the Angels, we already know Canning can absolutely lead a rotation as an ace. Patrick Sandoval reminds a lot of Jered Weaver in how he absolutely controls the pace of the game with his smoothly dominate rhythm on the mound. He understands the ins and outs of pitching and has a very aggressive approach in attacking hitters. It’s no surprise that Sandoval has such strongly emanating bulldog-ace mentality given that he came from the Astros highly advanced developmental system.

Canning, Sandoval and Barria can provide the same effect that Justin Verlander/Gerrit Cole/Dallas Keuchel did for the Astros by providing two aces with a reliably strong third. I’m not comparing skill levels by offering the Verlander/Cole/Keuchel trio, I’m only stating how the Astros created a staff lead by two pitchers with a dominant ace mentality and backed it up with a strong third to create a near impenetrable staff. Plus the Angels literally have a pitcher whose learned to pitch with that hard-nosed ace mentality, Astros style, in prospect Patrick Sandoval.

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On the offensive side of things we have Luis Rengifo developing into an actual future lead-off man. Rengifo is very close to the Majors and will soon solidify himself as one of the top lead-off hitters in the game. Why is that? He has the skill-set of the prototypical lead-off man except it’s all juiced up to 11.

His 2018 MiLB season (at the age of 21) saw him slash a line of .299/.399/.452 with 41 stolen bases across Class A Advanced to Triple A. His plate approach is A+ for leading off, he has great patience and awareness in regards to settling in and picking his pitches. His 75K’s/75BB ratio in tandem with 50 XBH’s shows that he has a keen eye that forces pitchers to give him hittable pitches; like any strong lead-off man he can start the game off by pressuring the man on the mound and forcing his way on base.

Again, he had 50 XBH’s in his 2018 season, 30 Doubles with 13 Triples and 7 HR’s. Simply put, he can work the life out of a pitcher by making them squeeze their own zone and then popping off serious damage once they make the mistake he forces.

That’s still not touching the 41 steals; with Mike Trout hitting 2nd behind Rengifo you would see immense pressure on the pitcher and defense right out the gate, it truly has the formula for most dangerous 1-2 duo in MLB. Then again that’s forgetting about Shohei Ohtani which makes that the best 1-2-3 duo in all of baseball.

Oh, and by 2020 we could see the Charlie Blackmon like Brandon Marsh and Mike Trout 2.0 in Jo Adell also in the lineup. They could slot anywhere from 2-6, ro really that gives the Angels the best 1-2-3-4-5 with Rengifo, Trout and a mix of Ohtani/Marsh/Adell behind them. Also, depending on how Upton is hitting he could very well be a part of that dangerous mix as well. Talk about a threatening lineup through and through.

All these changes are going to seep into the club by 2019, by the end of the season there’s a very good chance we can see Griffin Canning and Patrick Sandoval in the starting pitching mix as well as Rengifo/Adell/Walsh/Matt Thaiss making MLB breakthroughs sometime this season. The Angels are looking like a confidently competitive team going into 2019 and I can see them making a strong run for the playoffs all season long. Don’t be surprised if the Angels actually look good in the playoffs should they make that strong run.

The real story, however, is 2020 and how all the youth I’ve mentioned as well as many others will be a solidified part of the lineup and rotation. Everything that’s been done by Billy Eppler to give Trout the team he needs is just on the doorstep of fruition and with Mike Trouts 12 year extension in perspective we can finally see how everything is falling into place.

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As funny as it sounds, it was Mike Trout who was the first and final piece of a system built around him. The draft picks from 2016 and up are on the final steps of their development and ready to impact the big league club in ways greater than anyone expected.

I don’t know about you, maybe it’s just the high of the Angels solidifying franchise history by committing to one of the greatest of all time for 12 years, but with the new order of the way this organization is tailored from top to bottom it truly feels like the Angels franchise is starting now.