LA Angels Season Prediction Series: We Talking About Playoffs???

TEMPE, ARIZONA - FEBRUARY 19: Pitcher Matt Harvey #33 poses for a portrait during Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim photo day on February 19, 2019 in Tempe, Arizona. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
TEMPE, ARIZONA - FEBRUARY 19: Pitcher Matt Harvey #33 poses for a portrait during Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim photo day on February 19, 2019 in Tempe, Arizona. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) /

The LA Angels are already starting to hit some of the same road bumps that plagued them throughout the 2018 season. Andrew Heaney will be missing the start of the season with elbow inflammation issues, the starting staff is a hovering question mark and the bullpen isn’t looking as put together as it needs to be.

With all these in mind you’d think the LA Angels were in for another rough-and-tumble type season much alike 2018.

However, with those expectations in mind you’d be dead wrong. Sure the Angels are already hit with an injury to Andrew Heaney that will see him miss Opening Day, but you can’t forget how much potential Angels GM Billy Eppler put into the middle part of the rotation.

You have Matt Harvey, who has been looking better than he has in a handful of years and has come into camp with an optimistic, confident outlook on this fresh start to his career. He’ll be pitching behind Andrew Heaney, and as good as lead dog Heaney was last year he did finish the year with a 4.15 ERA, but that would be missing the point as his real magic came in his inning eating-ability as he put up a much-needed 180 IP (with 180 K’s) in 2018.

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Just to note, the only other season in which Heaney pitched over 100 innings (2015 with 105.2 IP) saw him hold down a 3.49 ERA across the season. Heaney is barely creeping into his late 20’s as he is now 27 and will finish the season at 28.

He’s just entering his prime and it’s very reasonable to think that he will be able to anchor the rotation in 2019 even better than he did in 2018. It’s also possible that he pitches in less innings due to a more stable rotation, in this case could easily put up a better season numbers-wise than 2018.

That being said, Matt Harvey is a former Cy Young contender and is just hitting the age of 30. He has a lot of talent left in the tank, but the lingering question here is if he’ll be able to harness those neglected talents, and if so, how deeply can he stimulate his potential that fell to the wayside.

We also have a great potential in the bullpen, not just in talent provided but in competent management by new manager Brad Ausmus and pitching coach Doug White. In the bullpen we have guys like Luke Bard, who previously pitched with the Angels in 2018 for a short period (11.2 IP) and flashed great stuff, but ultimately was booted from the team with a 5.40 ERA.

Many people believe that Bard was heavily underutilized and misused by former manager Mike Scioscia and when you look at Bards peripherals you can understand why that belief would float around. Bard has well above average spin rates on his pitches, a peripheral heavily utilized by the league nowadays, and so far this Spring he’s pitched 5.2 innings of 1.59 ERA baseball with 9 K’s.

A better handle on Bards talent as well as the return of former closer Keynan Middleton and an improved Justin Anderson offers a lot of confidence regarding the state of the Angels bullpen in 2019. Lets not forget that the talent the Angels have brought in talent capable of understanding and utilized advanced pitching peripherals with Doug White.

White spent the 2018 season as the Astros bullpen coach, the Astros being by far the top organization in utilizing advanced peripherals to nurture and adjust talent, so if he is able to bring that same understanding of the game to the Angels we could see a bullpen that looks entirely different despite being mostly the same working parts.

Pitching is ultimately the key to success both across the season and in-game. With a stronger outlook on pitching in both the starting staff and bullpen as well as more capable coaching we may be looking towards a great season for the Angels. How great though?

Is 90 wins too much? 92? I don’t think either of those are, they won 80 games last year on a starting staff that was duct-taped together, an over the hill manager and an overall low energy ball-club.

The Angels have a quietly beefed up pitching staff that will hold together more games for an offense that ranked around the middle of the board amongst fellow AL offenses in 2018. Oh, we also have Shohei Ohtani back on board as an offensive option for 2019 as well as nice new additions like the power-swinging lefty 1B Justin Bour.

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The depth in the farm system is looking strong and there is a ton of talent that will seep onto the squad in 2019 and completely take over by 2020. With a surging youth movement taking over the team there is really nowhere to go from last year but up. A 2nd place finish and a Wild Card berth could be in the works for 2019, but don’t be surprised if they shock the world and explode towards a hotly contested 1st place in the AL West off the sparks of progressive coaching and an entirely refurbished organization.

World Series anyone?

Nah, maybe in 2020. Although I wouldn’t put it past the Angels to put themselves into a deeper playoff consideration after putting up a shocking upswing of a season.