LA Angels Spring Training Recap: Angels 8, Dodgers 4

OAKLAND, CA - MARCH 30: (L-R) Chris Young
OAKLAND, CA - MARCH 30: (L-R) Chris Young /

The Angels bats brought the fire in the first Angels stadium exhibition against the Dodgers. Albert Pujols went yard off of Dylan Floro as the rest of the squad joined in on the hit parade all throughout the lineup. Mike Trout, Brandon Marsh, and Jonathan Lucroy all looked primed for the upcoming season throughout this exhibition. 

The LA Angels bats came out hot and brought home the win against a strong Dodgers squad last night (3/24/19). As it’s only Spring Training you want to focus less on the win and more on the moving parts that brought the win together, although a win against the Dodgers is always fun to see. As hot as the offense was there was some prime pitching from the Angels, namely from starter Felix Pena and his phenomenal performance against the Dodgers.

Phenomenal isn’t a word you usually seen thrown about during Spring Training, which adds a significant amount of weight to Pena’s performance. Felix Pena struck out nine in just 3.1 IP; there’s mid-season form and then there’s what Felix Pena has been doing all Spring. He isn’t just looking good, he isn’t just looking ready for the season, he’s looking better than he ever has in his entire career. He’s been decent at best in his career, last year (2018) he posted a 4.18 ERA in 92.2 IP and hasn’t posted an ERA under 4 throughout his three MLB seasons.

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The Felix Pena that has come into this Spring looks like a completely different Pena; his pitches have more life to them and he mixes up his repertoire enough to keep hitters well off-balance. The way he approaches his pitching looks to have changed entirely and it absolutely shows. When you’re striking out 9 across 3.1 IP you’re doing something very well, even if it’s just Spring Training, and if Pena can translate that into the regular season we may see a more effective starting rotation than most are expecting.

Angels 8, Dodgers 4

Winning Pitcher: Felix Pena (RHP) – 3.1 IP, 3 Hits, 1 Run, 2 Walks, 9 K’s

Losing PItcher: Joe Kelly (RHP) – 1 IP, 1 Hit, 1 Run, 1 Walk, 1 K

There was quality performance from the Angels all over the board. You had Mike Trout looking good with his 5th inning double, Pujols hitting a slammer off Floro as well as Lucroy lining a double as well. Brandon Marsh looked great defensively and offensively. We got to see Marsh perform at his fullest while roaming CF as he pulled of a fantastic diving catch that ended the 8th inning. On top of that pulled in a two-RBI single that put the Angels ahead of the Dodgers late in the game..

I haven’t seen an Angels prospect raise their own stock this hard in a while. Brandon Marsh came into Spring Training as top prospect with a great future, but now he’s looking like more than just a “top prospect”. He looks like a very valuable asset to the Angels in both the present and the future. At this pace he can come into the 2019 season and begin contributing right off the bat. I don’t think he’s going to command an Opening Day roster spot, but what he can do is solidify his stock in the eyes of the Angels as the next one in line for a Major League role later in the season.

It wasn’t all fun and games as Justin Upton wasn’t able to make any Plate Appearances in the game, despite being in the starting lineup, due to injuring his toe in the first inning. Thankfully the Angels have plenty of depth to cover for Upton, but it is tough to think that Upton’s injuries which have plagued him all Spring may continue into the season. I’m sure he’ll start the season strong despite the setbacks through Spring, although you can’t help but think these issues may end up holding him back.

Top Performances

Brandon Marsh stole the show with his incredible work, both offensively and defensively, against the Dodgers. His two-RBI single pushed the Angels past the Dodgers and his diving catch in CF kept the Angels ahead. Marsh has been touted as a top Angels prospect, but what he’s been doing this Spring is show how ready he is for MLB work.

The Angels currently have all of their outfield spots locked up, but with the injury to Upton as well as Kole Calhoun’s cloudy future there is a solid chance we could be seeing more Brandon Marsh going into the season. He still has a bit of development left to go as he hasn’t appeared in an MiLB level above Class A Advanced yet, a level where he spent the vast majority of his debut season with the Angels organization in 2018.

He’s just 21 right now and will continue his development into the Double and Triple A levels of the Angels organization in 2019, but if he continues to show his stuff like he did today there’s nothing short of a 100% chance he’ll be in the bigs by the end of next year.

Felix Pena put on the best show out of anyone on this squad, and that isn’t to take anything away from what the other Angels did, but my lord did Felix Pena blow everyone away in this game. Pena struck out nine despite pitching just 3.1 IP.

He put on quite the show by dazzling and dominating the Dodgers almost every step of the way, although Pena did leak a small bit in the 1st and allow a run, but that lone run was inconsequential to Pena and the Angels. I’ve gone on and on about how the Angels starting staff may be in better shape than most think and when you see Pena light up a team as strong as the Dodgers this optimistic vision for the Angels future comes more and more to light.

The bottom of the rotation is an important spot to fill for the Angels and if Felix Pena, who is entering his age 29 season, can continue this surge into the regular season we’ll be seeing a starting staff that can carry the Angels through games from the top of the rotation to the bottom. I wouldn’t be surprised if Pena ended up a mid-rotation contributor given how much better he’s been than his previous self.

Justin Bour showed that he’s not just a big-swinging 1B, he actually has strong plate control. Yesterday he took three walks in four plate appearances while scoring two runs. Justin Bour is more than capable of producing runs outside of his big-power hitting, in 2018 he held down a .341 OBP and does hold a career OBP of .344 in four seasons.

Despite his 2018 numbers of 124 K’s and 73 BB’s it should be noted that this was a down year for Bour. He’s a bit of a late bloomer as he didn’t start his MLB career until 26 and only saw 83 Plate Appearances. At the age of 27, in 2015, Bour saw 446 PA’s and slashed a line of .262/.321/.479 with 23 HR’s, 73 RBI’s, and 20 Doubles. His 2018 was a big down year as he posted his lowest OPS (.746) after 3 seasons of rising OPS (2015: .800, 2016: .824, 2017: .902).  Everything points to Bour having a resurgent year and if he keeps up his powerful Spring he may just upend Pujols as first-base.

Jonathan Lucroy is looking in shape offensively as he pulled in two hits in this exhibition with one hit being a double. It’s great to see him having a good offensive Spring that has seen him flash some power in his bat, all in all he’s collected 4 doubles and a triple adding up to a .512 slugging percentage.

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If he continues to take this offensive stride forward that would be fantastic, offense is always welcome, though his true value lies in how well he handles a pitching staff. Lucroy is a nine season MLB veteran and has handled the pitching staff of four different organizations in that time. He’s brought a strong veteran presence to the team, the biggest question here is if he can handle the staff as well as former Angel catcher Martin Maldonado.

We saw how beloved Maldonado was by Angels pitchers, if Lucroy can bring a similar chemistry to the team the Angels will be looking better than they have in a handful of years.

The Angels will face the Dodgers again at Angels stadium tonight at 7:07 PM PT. The contest can be viewed on Fox Sports West as well as SNLA.