Although the Angels finished second in the AL West, they were ultimately 21 games back from first place and last led the division on April 13th. Against World Series champion Houston, the Angels went 7-12, and against the Texas Rangers, who won just 78 games, Mike Scioscia’s squad went 8-11.
The loss of Mike Trout, who played in just 114 games because of thumb surgery, obviously derailed this team from getting over the hump. Despite missing nearly 50 games, Trout, who would be a Hall of Famer if he retired today, joined Barry Bonds (1993) as the only players to have a season with at least 33 home runs, 20 steals, slugging percentage of .629 and an OPS+ of 187.
The best player in the game, Mike Trout (USA Today)
Trout also finished first in offensive win percentage and OPS, second in offensive WAR and OBP, third in slugging percentage, fifth in at bats per home run, and sixth in walks. Can you imagine the type of numbers he would have put up, had he not gotten injured?
The Angels led the league in steals, which is great, but they also finished near the bottom in a lot of other major offensive categories. As a team, Los Angeles finished 22nd in runs/game, 23rd in OBP, 24th in HR/game, 27th in SLG, 28th in batting average, and 29th in hits/game.
On the plus side, Andrelton Simmons had a career year. The shortstop finished first in defensive WAR, and eighth in overall WAR. “Simba” hit .278 with 14 home runs, 19 steals, and 77 runs scored. He, along with teammate Martin Maldonado, earned a Gold Glove Award, marking the third of Simmons’ career.
Even without Garrett Richards for essentially the whole season, the Angels pitching was not all that bad. Among the 15 American League teams, they had the third fewest walks, and the sixth best ERA. Their bullpen wasn’t too shabby as well, finishing with the fourth most strikeouts and the fifth best ERA in the AL.
2018: Around the Diamond
After finishing near the bottom in almost all the offensive categories, the Angels revamped their lineup, and head into 2018 as a serious playoff contender. This offseason, Los Angeles signed second basemen Ian Kinsler. Kinsler, who struggled last season, hitting just .236 with a .313 OBP, is out of his prime, but can still produce. 2017 was probably his worst season as a pro, yet he still hit 22 home runs and scored 90 runs for Detroit.
The Angels also welcomed in Zack Cozart to play third base. Cozart is coming off a career year with the Cincinnati Reds. He was named an NL All-Star and finished the year hitting .297 with 24 home runs and a .385 OBP. The Angels finished 27th in WAR for 3B, and 30th for 2B so bringing in Cozart and Kinsler is a huge positive.
Maldonado, who played a career high 138 games last season, will remain behind the plate, while Simmons will, of course, still be at shortstop. First base will most likely belong to CJ Cron, a former first round pick who hit 16 home runs in 2017. Luis Valbuena, who hit 22 home runs but batted just .199, will also get reps at the corner positions.
The Angels need Justin Upton to mirror his 2017 stats in order to make a run. (SI.com)
Last August, the Angels traded for Justin Upton, who, last season, hit a career high 35 home runs and had a .361 OBP, which was his highest since 2011. He hit .344 against lefties and 23 home runs against righties. The veteran outfielder also excelled with RISP, hitting .336 with 10 home runs. Because of his stellar season, the Angels signed him to a five-year, $106M deal.
Kole Calhoun, who has had four straight seasons of at least 17 home runs, will remain in right. The Angels also have the best player in the league playing center so this outfield for a full-season will be dangerous.
Unless your Tom Brady, father time catches up to everybody. Unfortunately, the Angels are seeing this with Albert Pujols. Pujols saw his OBP dip below .300 for the first time in his career and had a -2 WAR, the first time his WAR had ever been below zero. Pujols will be the primary DH, but it is assumed he will get less at-bats than previous seasons. Still, the future Hall of Famer hit 23 home runs and hit .324 in high leverage situations.
One player that could also get some time at DH is the “Japanese Babe Ruth”, Shohei Otani, but let’s give him a proper introduction as a pitcher.
On the Bump
Otani is listed as the number one prospect in all of baseball. He is the biggest story in 2018, as he hopes to pitch and occasionally hit in the MLB. His fastball has touched 102, while his splitter and hard slider are devastating strikeout pitches. He does have an elbow injury, but the Angels are not too worried. In 2017, on the mound, Otani went 3-2 with a 3.20 ERA. The year before, in 140 innings, Otani struck out 174 batters and posted a 1.86 ERA. We will have to wait and see how Mike Scioscia will use him.
Otani has arrived. (DailyNews)
Two pitchers to keep an eye on are Garrett Richards and Matt Shoemaker, who both dealt with injuries in 2017. Richards has made just 12 starts over the last two seasons, but is poised for a comeback in 2018. Last season, in 27.2 innings, Richards had a 2.28 ERA and a .904 WHIP. He has shown he can be an ace when healthy, but we will have to see if he can stay on the field.
Shoemaker missed almost the entire second half of 2017 because of a forearm injury. He posted a 4.52 ERA, but is now healthy and good to go.
Tyler Skaggs could be a major sleeper in fantasy baseball for 2018. Skaggs has dealt with injuries throughout the start of his career, but the former first round pick pitched well in the minors and has the stuff to be a quality starter in this league. In 2017, Skaggs started 16 games and posted a 1.388 WHIP. Andrew Heaney, Parker Bridwell, and JC Ramirez, who won 11 games last year, will all be fighting for starts at the end of the rotation.
The Angels hope last year’s bullpen can keep the momentum going into 2018. They brought in veteran Jim Johnson, who could close out some games, but let’s not forget that the Angels had eight different relievers record a save in 2017. Cam Bedrosian looks to be the front-runner to be named the closer.
Aside from Otani, the Angels have three other members in MLB.com’s “Top 100 Prospects” list. Two outfielders, Jo Adell (No. 62), and Jahmai Jones (No. 93), as well as infielder Kevin Maitan (No. 87). Adell, the Angels first-round draft pick in 2017, had a tremendous start to his professional career. The 10th overall pick hit .325 with 5 home runs in 49 Rookie-Ball games. He is only 18 years old, so give the kid some time to grow.
Jones, whose father and brother played in the NFL, is a raw athlete who has exceptional speed on the base path. In 127 games between A/A+, Jones hit .282 with 14 home runs and 27 steals. Jones is expected to make his MLB debut in 2019.
Kevin Maitan, like Adell, is also just 18 years of age. According to MLB.com, “The Venezuelan teenager had been compared to Miguel Sano and his ceiling has been put side-by-side with the likes of Miguel Cabrera and Chipper Jones.” However, he had a poor start to his professional career in 2017, batting just .241 with 2 home runs in 42 games.
2018 Prediction: 84-78
The Angels will be right in the hunt for the second Wild Card and should get over the hump in 2018. They are in a tough division, but they have the best player in the league, and have made key additions to the lineup. Otani will be exciting, and if the rest of the rotation can stay healthy, there is no reason as to why this team will not be in the playoff hunt when all is said and done.
Featured image by MLB.com
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Ozhaino “Ozzie” Albies will be one of the youngest players in the MLB next season, as he will turn 21 in January. The Curacao-born Albies will join the rising crop of Dutch infielders in the MLB a list that includes Xander Bogaerts, Jonathan Schoop, Andrelton Simmons and 2017 playoff hero Didi Gregorius.
Ozzie Albies was invited to spring training in 2016, but opened the season with Double-A Mississippi. (Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire)
Albies signed with the Atlanta Braves for $350,000 as an international free agent in 2013. According to Zach Dillard of Fox Sports, Albies was heavily influenced to sign with the Braves due to his personal connection with the aforementioned Simmons and Andruw Jones, who both are former Braves players and natives of Curacao.
As a 17-year-old in 2014, Albies was more than impressive, batting a combined .364 in 57 games in the Gulf Coast and Appalachian Leagues. Heading into 2015, Albies was ranked within the top-100 prospects in baseball by Keith Law of Baseball Prospectus.
With heightened expectations, Albies did not disappoint, batting .310 with 29 extra-base hits and 29 stolen bases in 98 games. Albies was named to the All-Star Futures Games, where he was the youngest player to take the field. Unfortunately, he fractured his right thumb in early August, causing him to miss the remainder of the 2015 season.
He was invited to spring training in 2016, but opened the season with Double-A Mississippi. In 138 games in Double and Triple-A, Albies batted a combined .292 with 49 extra-base hits and 30 stolen bases.
He was invited to spring training once again in 2017, but was sent to triple-A as the Braves had a log jam in their middle infield with veteran Brandon Phillips at second base and first-overall pick Dansby Swanson at shortstop. In 97 games in Triple-A, Albies batted .285 with 48 extra-base hits and 21 stolen bases.
Albies was called-up on August 1 and has since batted .286 with 20 extra-base hits and eight stolen bases in 57 games. This level of production would put Albies on pace to have 56 extra-base hits and 22 stolen bases.
He has an extraordinary 14.8 percent strike out rate and has made at least medium contact on 85 percent of batted balls, which are nearly identical figures to fellow middle infielders Jean Segura and Elvis Andrus.
Ozzie Albies promises to be an incredible fantasy asset, as even though he lacks dominant power, he makes up for it with speed. (Photo by Getty Images)
In 2017, the 20-year-old spent the majority of his time batting second and seventh. It is assumed he will be used primarily in the top third of the lineup in 2018. Albies promises to be an incredible fantasy asset. Even though he lacks dominant power, he makes up for it with his speed.
The Braves’ offense was very underrated in 2017, as they were ranked sixth in batting average and had the fourth fewest strikeouts. For fantasy purposes, batting in the top third of any lineup is great, but the Braves promise to be even more productive in 2018 with Freddie Freeman, Matt Kemp and Ender Inciarte all healthy and returning.
The 2018 outlook for Ozzie Albies is incredibly bright. His draft stock is bound to increase by the day as we head toward the 2018 MLB season. The price for Albies will likely be between the 50th and 100th pick, depending on the draft date and league format. I will be buying plenty of Albies stock in 2018, will you?
Featured image by 11Alive.com
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Seven years ago, the Minnesota Twins headed in to the 2010 postseason as the 94-win AL Central champions. It was their last playoff appearance.
Even the most optimistic of Minnesota Twins fans could not have foreseen what this season had in store. Sure, there are probably a select few who were predicting the postseason in April, but then again, every year is a World Series year for those people. It’s adorable. And as someone who has spent the better part of 30 years rooting for Milwaukee, I get it. We had our own improbable run this year.
Twins Manager Paul Molitor has done a lot more smiling this year than he did in 2016. (Photo courtesy of: KARE TV)
Unlike the upstart Brewers (who cling to just the faintest of life), you have succeeded in stamping your ticket to the postseason. Although, it did require the help of a legendary Milwaukee Brewer “Igniter” piloting that ship and steadying it through turbulent waters. Obviously, this is tongue in cheek, but let’s face it, Paul Molitor has done a heckuva job with this ball club.
I’ve heard grumblings from Twins fans on social media questioning how Molly runs a pitching staff. I find that a lot of the time, however, you can’t please everyone. The differences in this year’s Twins twirlers compared to that 2016 abomination are something you should be celebrating.
Don’t misunderstand, nobody is saying the Twins staff is dominant, but improvements in team pitching are why you’re here. Last season you finished dead last in the American League in pitching and that had to be painful to watch; 59-win seasons do tend to be pretty awful.
This season however, the Twins pitching staff ranks 10th of 15 in American League total team pitching. This team has shaved close to half-a-run off their team ERA (4.63) in 2017, down from a revolting (5.08) ERA in 2016. It must be at least a little depressing to average giving up five-plus runs per game. What am I talking about? It is depressing, I’ve been there and done that with some of those fine collections of soft-tossing beach ball dealers the Brewers have collected over the years. Doug Davis anyone?
Ask yourself one question: Would you rather have another season where you endure giving up 889 runs, or would you rather give up over 100 fewer runs and play October baseball? This is more than enough reason to get behind your club and your manager in my estimation. Forget about the questionable pitching management, you’re in the playoff club!
Byron Buxton, at age 23, already makes center field look way too simple. He should win the Gold Glove in 2017. (Photo Courtesy of: Twincities.com)
It doesn’t hurt a team’s fortunes either when one of your top youngsters flips the switch and begins to figure out the Major League game. This is exactly what Byron Buxton has done in 2017 for the Minnesota Twins.
I’m going to say this right now. Minnesota Twins centerfielder Byron Buxton is a Gold Glove winner. Should he not win the award bestowed upon the season’s best fielders in the AL this year, it will be an injustice.
He is just glove-ly. He uses that blazing speed to his advantage to become the predator lying in wait for any unsuspecting line drive looking only for clean grass to nest in. Even the best hitters regularly find the deep pocket of his cavernous glove.
And you can forget about burning this man. You’re not going to. He gets such an unbelievable jump on the ball and his read off the bat is so sharp, balls that would eat up most normal centerfielders find Buxton effortlessly tracking them down.
Long story short, he makes center field look easy. His (dWAR), or defensive wins above replacement, rating of 2.9 is second best in the majors this year to only all-world short stop, Andrelton Simmons who sits at a not too shabby 4.2 dWAR. And I do say that sarcastically by the way. Simmons is a man-god at short for Los Angeles.
Since the beginning of August, Buxton has been absolutely raking. As we have hit the dog days of summer, Buxton seems to be playing his best baseball at the right time stroking a (.303/.349/.556) line. Down the stretch, his batting average on balls in play (BABIP) is a scorching (.380). This suggests he will almost certainly cool off. Twins fans however, hope that happens after the World Series.
It doesn’t matter what way you slice it, Buxton has been great this year for the Twins. At 23 years old, the best is almost certainly yet to come. But for now, this is a young player on the rise and seemingly coming into his own. Buxton will not be a free agent until 2022, so enjoy your defensive stalwart in centerfield while he’s there.
Please, Not New York… Again
With Boston again losing to the Astros last night 3-2 and the Yankees shutting out the Blue Jays 4-0, the AL East is still in play. New York is sitting two back with a pair left to play entering Saturday.
While it is still mathematically possible the Yankees could walk away with the East, they need to win out. They also need Boston to lose out. And then they would need to win a one game playoff at Yankee Stadium to send Boston into the Wild Card matchup with the Twins. Is it possible? Sure. Is it likely? No.
The Minnesota Twins are most likely going to New York, folks.
The 85-win Minnesota Twins record the final out in the 1987 World Series, overcoming a stacked St. Louis Cardinals team. (Photo courtesy of: Minnpost.com)
If you’re a Twins fan, you don’t need to be reminded of the tough luck in October since the 1991 dream season. The Twins successfully went from dead last in 1990 to champs in 1991. Since that season, which culminated in arguably the best World Series of all time, Minnesota’s fortunes have been much different. The New York Yankees have been a main culprit.
In four of the last seven playoff series the Twins have played, the Yankees have been their opponent. The results have been far from resembling competent baseball. In four Division Series hookups, the Minnesota Twins have played to a (2-12) record. The Twins were also swept out of October in each of the last two playoff series they played (2009 & 2010).
Over those 14 games, the Yankees have regularly out-slugged the Twins. Take Derek Jeter for instance, as he hit at a .351 clip through that stretch while also adding eight RBIs to further his team’s cause.
This type of performance wasn’t limited to just Jeter though, because the Yankees also hit 20 homers to Minnesota’s eight. That’s a lot of runs to be giving up over one swing of a bat, so it’s really not surprising they have only taken two wins in 14 games.
Although Jeter has since ascended in to baseball mythology, the Yankees have a new batch of talented players. Of course, this is including Rookie of the Year shoe-in and notorious baseball abuser Aaron Judge.
Here’s the good news though Twins fans, this is a one-off matchup. We all know that on any given day in MLB literally any team can win. This my friends, is the great equalizer. You don’t need to be consistent over a series of games. You only need one performance to pass your first test.
Granted, it’s a big test going on the road with a pitching staff that can be prone to giving up some runs. On top of that, you are facing a good slugging Yankee team.
But, there is always one of those, right? If you can get to the Yankees early and allow defenders like Byron Buxton to salt the game away in the field, you might just pull this baby out. And you might just start exercising some of those historical demons.
Just remember this, in 1987, the Minnesota Twins went 85-77 and won the whole dang thing. Anything is possible, dreamers!
(feature photo: KMSP TV)
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It has been a month since the non-waiver trade deadline passed but there still have been all sorts of wheeling and dealing. It is much more difficult to complete a trade after July 31st, but it can still happen and make an impact for a team. Here is a look at some of the big trades over the past month and the impact it can have on their respective teams.
Curtis Granderson to the Dodgers
Granderson has ripped 3 bombs since arriving in LA (NBC Los Angeles)
Granderson had been having a good power year but has been struggling otherwise, much like a lot of hitters this season. He has 23 home runs and a .217/.330/.480 slash line on the year. Since making his way to Los Angeles, he is only hitting .135.
It was an interesting move for the Dodgers to make as they have a well-rounded outfield. However, it is evident that Dodgers managements knows that this is their time to go for the whole thing. Thus, they made the decision to do everything they can to improve their offense. The outfield already consists of Yasiel Puig, Chris Taylor and rookie sensation Cody Bellinger. Bellinger was recently on the disabled list though, so the Granderson deal may be precaution just in case something goes wrong. He started most games with Bellinger on the DL and was able to hit three home runs in that time.
Replacing Chris Taylor would also be a tough sell given that he is having a breakout year at the plate with a .305/.375/.532 slash line along with 18 home runs. It would be tough to see Granderson starting in the outfield come October barring injury. He would provide impressive pop off the bench in important situations, so look for him to make his impact there.
Mariners make moves for Mike Leake and Yonder Alonso
The Mike Leake trade news came as a surprise this week. This seemed to be more of a salary dump for the Cardinals as they look to add in free agency this winter or re-sign Lance Lynn. Several sources also reported that Leake was not happy in St. Louis, so that may have contributed in him waiving his no-trade clause. Players in the St. Louis clubhouse were not happy with the deal though, asking if it was a joke even.
Leake has been struggling as of late. He was not contributing much as he has a 8.88 ERA in the month of August. He has shown signs of brilliance though. In April he looked to be one of the best pitchers in the National League as he went 3-1 with a 1.35 ERA. The Mariners may be looking for that Mike Leake for the wild card race at hand, as well as the future with his contract running until 2021.
Yonder Alonso was a big bat that the Mariners were looking for. He has managed to hit 24 this season along with a respectable .267 batting average. It is obvious that Seattle is serious about making a run for the wild card, however they are slumping as of late and will need to turn it around. They are 4.5 games behind the Twins for the second spot in the playoffs. It is going to be especially difficult considering the moves that the Angels are making in Anaheim.
Angels acquire Justin Upton from Detroit
Upton joins Mike Trout in a star-studded outfield (Sports Illustrated)
The Angels traded for a big name in Justin Upton on Thursday. Upton provides a very strong presence in the middle of the Angels lineup. This acquisition is exactly what the team needs in terms of morale and support. It shows that the Angels are not going to sit idly by when they see there is a chance for the team to do something in the postseason.
Albert Pujols is not the hitter he used to be but he is a great compliment to Justin Upton and Mike Trout. Andrelton Simmons is also having one of his best years at the plate, so there is potential for the offense to take the Angels to the playoffs. Their main issue is pitching though. The performance of their pitching staff is vital in order for the Upton trade to work out this season.
What the Upton trade also shows is that the Tigers are in selling mode. They have now unloaded Alex Avila and their star outfielder Justin Upton. Is there going to be a Verlander-sized domino that falls next? Many teams would love to have an arm with the kind of experience Verlander has at this point in the season. Look for him to be moved soon as multiple sources are reporting that the Tigers want to deal their ace. It is not a sure thing but there are plenty of teams, even the Angels, that are probably calling Al Avila.
Johnathan Lucroy to Colorado
This trade went a tad under the radar, but it has been paying off for Colorado. Lucroy provides solid veteren experience to a relatively inexperienced pitching rotation. He is a good guy to have behind the plate if the Rockies make it to October and have their young pitchers go up against the league’s best.
Lucroy has a solid .299/.415/.448 slash line since being traded to Colorado from Texas. He had a -0.5 WAR in Texas as well but has been looking better with a .4 WAR in his 22 games with the Rockies. He also rounds out one of the better offenses in the league and is making a difference down the line.
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When Mike Trout slid into second base in late May and tore a ligament in his thumb, some thought that it prevented a potentially historic season from happening. However, Trout is proving that six weeks on the DL is not going to prevent him from getting the MVP.
Despite the fact that Trout has only played in 82 games, he still has 26 home runs and 60 RBIs. He also has a 5.6 WAR that ranks third in the American League behind Jose Altuve and Andrelton Simmons. Even the rookie sensation, Aaron Judge, falls behind Trout in WAR.
Not even a torn ligament can get the best of Mike Trout. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
When it was all said and done, Trout only missed 39 games for the Angels. In that time, the Angles went a mediocre 19-20.
Since returning, the Angels are 19-15 and are second in the AL Wild Card race. All together, the Angels are 46-42 when Trout plays.
It is not a staggering difference, but it is enough to see that Trout gives the Angels the edge they need to sneak into the playoffs.
How Trout stacks up with other contenders
Altuve is easily having the best year of his impressive career. (Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports).
Trout is currently slugging at an all time high for his career. His .670 slugging percentage is the best in his career and is 78 points ahead of the next top percentage.
Trout just does not have enough plate appearances to actually qualify for that title at the moment though. His ability to hit for power is a good sign for the future though, because he does appear to be getting better.
There are several players that are in consideration for the MVP award this year. Aaron Judge was a name many people thought had a shot at winning the coveted award. His recent struggles may get in his way though. He has a lower WAR than Trout and over 100 more plate appearances. If Trout wasn’t hurt, he could have similar home run numbers that Judge has.
The biggest obstacle in front of Trout in the MVP race is Jose Altuve. Altuve is putting up astonishing numbers with a .358/.418/.565 slash line along with a 7.0 WAR. If I were a gambling man, I would say Altuve almost has the MVP on lock down.
However, Trout could still make a run at the Astros’ second baseman. He has the second best batting average behind Altuve, but does not qualify yet. Trout may be able to catch Altuve if he keeps playing at the rate he does and pushes his power numbers up even more. It also may help if Trout is able to help his team get into the playoffs for the first time in his career.
Is the MVP in reach?
The fact that this can be a topic of discussion is impressive in itself. However, once we bring reality into this, the answer is most likely no. If it was not for Jose Altuve’s stellar season then it would be much more plausible for Trout to snatch the MVP for the third time in his young but illustrious career.
There are some things that can still happen for the award to fall into Trout’s hands. It would be a series of events though. Altuve would have to miss time, and Trout would have to go on a tear in September. It isn’t out of the question, but Altuve has not once spent time on the DL since coming up to the big leagues.
It is important to keep in mind that his performance since coming back from his injury is something to behold. The future is very bright for this young stud and it is sad to see him slowing down.
One stat that is easy to look at and helps determine if a player has longevity is the strikeout per nine innings stat. Trout has been striking out less and has shown that he has one of the better eyes in the game.
Even though he may not get the MVP this season, he should be a favorite for the coming years.
Featured Image from Huffington Post
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Shortstop are commonly known for their glove, but after the explosion of home runs in 2016, shortstops have emerged as a power position heading into 2017. 15 shortstops hit 20 or more homeruns last season, where only two did in 2015. The shortstop position has transitioned from one of the weakest to one of the deepest.
The top 25 shortstops have been grouped into four tiers, with the top and bottom player of each tier profiled below.
Honorable mentions include: Orlando Arcia (MIL), Ketel Marte (ARI), Jose Iglesias (DET), Andrelton Simmons (LAA), and Jose Reyes (NYM).
Manny Machado’s consistency warrants a first round pick. (Courtesy of USA TODAY Sports)
Manny Machado (BAL)
Carlos Correa (HOU)
Corey Seager (LAD)
Trea Turner (WSH)
Francisco Lindor (CLE)
Xander Bogaerts (BOS)
Manny Machado, primarily a third basemen, played 44 games at shortstop in 2016, after an injury sidelined Baltimore Orioles starter, J.J. Hardy. Machado, a career .285 hitter, has tallied at least 35 home runs and 100 runs in his last two seasons.
The 24-year-old has yet to reach the 100 RBI plateau, although if continues to progress, he could easily see a .300/100/40/100 season in his near future.
Machado’s consistency and potential make him the first shortstop that should be taken in 2017.
Xander Bogaerts is one of the safest picks an owner can make in 2017. The 24-year-old will be entering his fourth season in the majors, where he is a career .286 hitter.
His .320 batting average in 2015, and .330 batting average in the first half of 2016, suggest that he can sustain a well above .300 average for a full season in 2017.
The 6-foot-3 180-pounder raised his home run total from seven in 2015, to 21 in 2016. Bogaerts power is sure to improve one day, although I believe he will focus solely on sustaining contact rates next season.
Whether the power numbers show or not in 2017, Bogaerts is well worth a top 25 pick.
Trevor Story is healthy and ready to go for 2017. (Courtesy of Sporting News)
Trevor Story (COL)
Jonathan Villar (MIL)
Jean Segura (SEA)
Troy Tulowitzki (TOR)
Aledmys Diaz (STL)
Addison Russell (CHC)
Dansby Swanson (ATL)
Trevor Story had one of the greatest rookie seasons of all-time, and only played in 97 games due to a hand injury in 2016. After mashing 27 home runs with 76 RBI’s, Story managed to be one of the most productive players in the league during that stretch.
He will bat in the middle of an electric Colorado Rockies lineup, which may put up historically great numbers this season.
The only drawback on the 24-year-old is his atrocious 31.3% strike out rate, which may suggest that he sees a decline in batting average.
Regression of average or not, Story is well worth a top 35 pick, as his power upside is tremendous.
Dansby Swanson is currently being drafted as the 170th overall player, and 17th shortstop off the board, although I have him ranked as the 13th. The upside with Swanson is incredible, as he has the potential to bat .300 while batting second for the Atlanta Braves. This gives him the potential to score 100 runs in his rookie campaign.
The big power numbers have not shown yet, although he had sneaky power in college, hitting 15 home runs in 71 games. He also hit eight home runs in 84 games at the AA-level, which shows that he has the potential to hit 15 or so this season, giving him a chance to be a top 10 shortstop.
I’m reaching on Swanson’s potential in all drafts in 2017.
Can Didi Gregorius continue to improve upon his breakout 2016 campaign?(Courtesy of Getty Images)
Didi Gregorius (NYY)
Brandon Crawford (SF)
Brad Miller (TB)
Javier Baez (CHC)
Eduardo Nunez (SF)
Didi Gregorius, most notably the player that replaced Derek Jeter, quietly had a breakout seasons in 2016. Gregorius has continuously improved his batting average, going from .257 in 2014, to .276 in 2016. He has also seen a huge jump in power numbers, as he hit 20 home runs, which is 11 better than his former career high of 9.
The 27-year-old still has room for improvement, although his power numbers may fall, as the majority of his homers limp out of the Yankees short porch in right field.
Gregorius is a safe late round selection, but may have limited upside.
Eduardo Nunez spent his 2016 split between the Minnesota Twins and San Francisco Giants. The All-Star batted .321 with 12 home runs and 22 stolen bases in the first half of 2016. This shows how good Nunez can be when he is playing every day at his best.
The reason for Nunez’s low ranking is because of his lack of consistency and poor production with the Giants. Hitting home runs as a righty in San Francisco can be quite challenging, which makes me think his home run totals will drop severally.
Nunez has a solid average and will continue to steal some bases, which makes him a good mid to late round pick in all formats.
Jose Peraza will finally have an open spot in the Cincinnati Reds lineup. (Courtesy of MLBdailydish.com)
Jose Peraza (CIN)
Elvis Andrus (TEX)
Danny Espinosa (LAA)
Asdrubal Cabrera (NYM)
Marcus Semien (OAK)
Matt Duffy (TB)
Tim Anderson (CWS)
Jose Peraza has been compared to Jose Altuve, in not only their size, but also their skill set. Both have elite speed and get on base at a well above average clip. Peraza will finally have an everyday role with the Cincinnati Reds as they have parted ways with their franchise second basemen, Brandon Phillips, in a trade with the Atlanta Braves.
Peraza has stolen 281 bases in 611 professional games, which is about a half a steal per game. This alone gives Peraza elite stolen base value, as he has the chance to steal over 60 bases. This paired with the fact that he is a career .312 hitter gives him great potential to be a breakout star in 2017.
Tim Anderson commonly flies under the radar, as he will bat at the bottom of an inconsistent Chicago White Sox lineup. 2017 will be Anderson’s first full MLB season, which could mean a breakout is in the making for the 23-year-old.
We cannot forget that he stole 49 bases in 125 games in 2015. While he bats at the end of the order, which limits his run and RBI potential, he should be given plenty of opportunities to swipe bags.
The former first-round pick in 2013 is a career .283 hitter, which is a solid floor for a starting fantasy short stop. Anderson’s ADP of 191 makes him well worth a late pick as a middle infielder or starter in deeper leagues.
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As a baseball fanatic, this time of year can be a little tough. Spring Training is just around the corner, but real competitive baseball is still more than two months away. If this sounds like you, don’t worry my friend.
The World Baseball Classic, a competition held every four years between the top national teams around the world, begins on March 6. Let’s dive in head first and take a good look at the teams in Pool A and predict who will emerge victorious.
After advancing from Qualifier A in 2016, the Israeli team will be participating in it’s first World Baseball Classic. Manager Pete Kurz will have plenty of good players to rely on. Many of them have major league experience.
Slugging first baseman Ike Davis is one of the more notable position players on the team, having hit 81 bombs in his major league career. He will be joined by fellow position players Ty Kelly and defensive specialist Sam Fuld, who also have major league experience.
On the mound, team Israel will be led by journeyman pitcher Jason Marquis. While pitching 15 years in the majors, Marquis garnered a 4.61 ERA. He will lead a pitching staff devoid of major league talent, with the only other pitcher with major league experience being Josh Zeid.
Other names being reported as potential additions include Joc Pederson, Jason Kipnis and Danny Valencia. If skipper Pete Kurz can confirm their additions, he will have a deep roster that could make a surprise run.
Choi leads a deep Korean team dotted with KBO stars (Yonhap News).
With a pronounced influence in the majors, it is surprising to see Korea so sorely lacking in terms of major league talent. The only current major league player that manager Kim In-Sik will be able to call on is Cardinals reliever Seung-Hwan Oh. The 33-year-old broke out in 2016, posting a 1.92 ERA. Oh won’t be the only player with major league experience on the roster.
First baseman Dae-Ho Lee will join Oh to play for Korea. Lee played 104 games with the Mariners in 2016 and hit 14 home runs. He is currently a free agent. Major leaguers like Jung-Ho Kang, Hyun-Soo Kim and Shin-Soo Choo are all expected to miss the WBC. Don’t let the lack of major league talent fool you.
Korea will have plenty of quality players to call upon, most of them from the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO). All-Star pitchers Won-Jun Jang and Hyun-Jong Yang will be joined by position player Hyung-Woo Choi. Choi is a star in the KBO, and proved it in 2016 batting .376/.470/.651 with 31 homers and 144 RBIs.
While lacking in terms of major league experience, this team is certainly full of talent. Some of the best KBO has to offer will suit up and join Seung-Whan Oh to try and continue their WBC success.
This team will be one of the most difficult to analyze. The Chinese Taipei Baseball Association (CTBA) has been quiet on potential players it will include on its roster. It is easier at this point to discuss what players will not be on the roster, proving to be more helpful in analyzing this team’s chances.
The Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL) decided to boycott the WBC, leaving many of Chinese Taipei’s best players out. Chun-Hsiu Chen, Hung-Yu Lin and Po-Jung Wang, who are three of the best pitchers in the CPBL, will all miss the tournament. There is still hope for Chinese Taipei’s pitching staff.
Major leaguers Wei-Yin Chen and Chien-Ming Wang are both potential additions to the roster. Chen is coming off a less than stellar year in Miami, posting a 4.96 ERA in 123.1 innings pitched. Chen has stated that he will allow the Marlins to decide on his participation in the tournament, leaving his status up in the air. Wang is also a questionable addition after pitching in relief for the Royals in 2016. The 36-year-old is currently a free agent.
Chinese Taipei is sorely lacking in major league talent, and the questionable state of their roster leaves them in flux. If they are able to land Chen and Wang, they will have a solid one-two punch at the top of their rotation. That may be all they will have, with little other major league options.
Kingdom of the Netherlands
Simmons lead the Dutch National Team in the 2013 WBC (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images).
The Dutch National Team is the most storied European team in the WBC, and arguably one of the most talented. Manager and San Francisco Giants hitting coach Hensley Meulens will be able to call upon multiple current major leaguers, all of whom have had success at the major league level.
The Netherlands will have a loaded infield, highlighted by Oriole Jonathan Schoop and Angel Andrelton Simmons. Schoop provides plenty of power in the heart of the lineup, hitting a career high 25 homers in 2016. Simmons brings the defense. Simmons is arguably the best defender in the majors, and will certainly shine in the WBC.
The best overall player in all of Pool A has to be Red Sox star Xander Bogaerts. He provides a strong overall offensive game, hitting 21 homers and stealing 13 bases in 2016. His 109 OPS+ was the best of his young career, and is something skipper Meulens will be counting on.
What the Dutch National Team does lack is pitching. Former major leaguer Rick van den Hurk is the only confirmed pitcher currently on the roster. He had a career 6.08 ERA across six seasons in the majors. What they lack in pitching they make up for in hitting. The Netherlands has a deep infield to rely on, and should make good use of it.
While Israel has a good amount of major league experience on it’s roster, they will be hard pressed to compete. Chinese Taipei is seen to be the least talented team in the pool, even with questions surrounding its roster. That leaves The Netherlands and Korea.
With a deep infield, the Netherlands has a good chance to emerge from Pool A. However, Korea has the edge. With only two players with major league experience set to play for Korea, they will rely on their KBO stars to carry them. Korea is one of the most successful teams in WBC history, and that will continue in 2017.
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The Texas Rangers were the best team in the AL West last year. The Rangers had a solid offense with good enough pitching to back it up. They had some vets like Prince Fielder and Adrian Beltre who really helped them push their way to a division title. However, they were not the team everyone talked about. That team, was the Houston Astros. They came out of nowhere and almost won the division and were good enough to make it to the Wild Card round.
The Astros finished second last year but, were a major surprise to baseball as they had been picked by many to not contend at all. Their young players stepped up and shinned. Carlos Correa has the talent and the ability to be a perennial All-Star and MVP candidate.
The Angels finished third last year and played well throughout the season, just barely missing the playoffs. They had the offense coming from their superstar Mike Trout and future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols. Their problem was, and still is, pitching.
The Seattle Mariners finished fourth last year in a disappointing 2015 campaign. They struggled in hitting as they finished in the bottom three for both runs scored, strikeouts, and batting average. Their pitching was also nothing to write home about as they finished the year with a 4.16 ERA.
Last were the Athletics who were expected to have a down year. They traded away many of the pieces they had brought in for the 2014 playoff run. Billy Beane decided it was time to rebuild. They brought in some interesting players through trades and Sonny Gray was spectacular.
That was last year though, lets move on to what should be an exciting 2016 for the AL West. I will start by giving which place I believe the team will finish in, then I will go through almost every position and tell you all what I see and lastly I will name my player or players to watch.
1st Place: Houston Astros
Courtesy of: www.sports-logos-screensavers.com
Last year the American League West had a surprise team, the Astros. While they did not win the division they had everyone talking. This was because they were well ahead of schedule. The Astros were a young team that many thought wouldn’t be contending this soon after they had blown everything up years before. Everything is finally coming together for a team that was the worst in the majors for almost 3 years. Their loyal fanbase will have to opportunity to watch a team that has unbelievable talent.
The outfield rotation of Rasmus, Gomez, Marisnick, Tucker and especially Springer are all solid. They can play defense well and carry some impressive bats. Springer and Gomez should have excellent seasons this year. Gomez will finally be able to play a full season with a winning team. Springer will look to continue to improve on what was a spectacular 2015 season. As long as the injury bug does not get to him he should have a monster year.
The infield, particularly the middle of it, will be amazing as well. Jose Altuve was one of the only good players on the team during their rebuilding process. His patience has paid off. With him and Carlos Correa manning the middle of the field the Astros may have the best middle infield in baseball. Correa has shown that he can be a major force. He can hit for average, power, bat with runners in scoring position, steal bases and play defense. The kid was a number one overall pick for the Astros and he has not disappointed. Look for him to have an amazing year and look for his name on the MVP ballot at the end of the year.
The starting rotation added Doug Fister to the mix which is a solid pickup. Keuchel, the reigning Cy Young Winner, McHugh, Fiers, and Feldman make up the rest of what should be a solid rotation. They have their ace and a great number 2 in McHugh. Those two should make the top of this rotation deadly. The back of their rotation is also made up of solid overall pitchers. Many of them are innings eaters who will keep you in a ballgame and give you a good chance of winning once you get to the bullpen.
The bullpen has the potential to be great. Ken Giles who was the Phillies closer was traded to Houston this offseason. He did not win the closing job, it was announced that Luke Gregerson would have that job, but, I can see Giles eventually winning it back. Pat Nesheck and Tony Sipps will also round out what will be an older but, effective bullpen.
The Astros should win this division barring any terrible injuries. Look for them to make some trade deadline deals to improve their corner infield positions and maybe add one more starter if they have the money to. They are one of my picks to make it to the World Series this year.
Player to Watch: Carlos Correa
2nd Place: Texas Rangers
Courtesy of: www.sportslogos.net
This Rangers team came out and won the division last year, yet they were not the talk of the division. Many people outside of Texas had forgotten that they were the Division Champions, not the Astros. They will be looking to improve on their performance last year as they will have Yu Darvish back this year and an interesting piece in Ian Desmond patrolling left field. Ultimately they will finish 2nd behind an up and coming Astros team because their age will start to show and I do not think they will end the season with a healthy enough team to win the division.
The outfield will have Ian Desmond who to an extent is an experiment out in left field. He has been an infielder for his entire career but, he looked serviceable during Spring Training. They brought him in for his bat and they got him cheap. They are hoping this move will pay off. The rest of their outfield is much less exciting. Delino Deshields Jr. will be playing center field and while he is solid on defense he has a lackluster bat. Shin-Soo Choo will be playing right field and is a solid, but not all that exciting, player. He had a great season last year but, has been known to be injury prone throughout his career. Lastly is Josh Hamilton who should be back sometime in May. He has always had the potential to be a star but, his past and his age are starting to catch up to him. Sadly I do not see him playing all that well this year.
The Rangers infield will be solid. Adrian Beltre will playing solid defense and swing a mean bat. People are wondering if he is a Hall of Famer, I think he is and I think he will continue to prove that this season. Elvis Andrus will continue to bat for a decent average, steal bases, and playing great defense. Rougned Odor won the starting job at Second for now. Jurickson Profar will be called up if Odor starts to struggle at all. Mitch Moreland will be manning first base and will continue to hit. The big man has finally come into his own and deserves to be their starter. Prince Fielder will also play some first but, will mostly be their big bopper at DH. He will continue to do what he always has done, hit.
The most exciting part about this team is their starting rotation. Lets get the 3, 4, and 5 pitchers out of the way to start. Martin Perez is young and has good stuff but, he will need to prove that he deserves to stay in this rotation. Colby Lewis has been the Opening Day starter in the past and he has also dealt with health issues. If he can stay healthy he will be a solid back of the rotation guy. Derek Holland is in the exact same situation as Lewis. Now we get to the fun part, Yu Darvish who will be back in May and Cole Hamels. These two are both Aces and have been top 3 in Cy Young Voting. They are one of the best 1-2 punches in the game. Their only problem is staying healthy. If either of these two are down for too long a time the entire rotation gets significantly worse. If they are healthy for the entire year they will be fun to watch.
Here is most likely the biggest weakness for the Rangers, their bullpen. Look at these names and tell me what average fan will know them? Not one. Shawn Tolleson will be their closer and he has been solid the last two years with ERA’s of 2.76 and 2.99 respectively. He is not flashy but, he should get the job done. After him is a mix of many no name players. This will be an area they will need to improve drastically if they want a chance at winning the division.
Overall this Rangers team will be solid if they improve the bullpen and if they stay healthy. That is two too many ifs for me. I doubt they will stay healthy and I don’t think they will be able to improve the bullpen enough. I do think they will have a good year and have a chance at the wild card.
Player(s) to Watch: Yu Darvish and Cole Hamels
3rd Place: Seattle Mariners
Courtesy of: www.sportslogos.net
This team has consistently under-performed. Robinson Cano, King Felix, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager are their best players. These four are great but, they have never been enough to push them over the top. There are just too many holes. They will play some good baseball but, they will not be anything spectacular this year. This team outside of a few players is boring.
The outfield will consist of Nori Aoki, Leonys Martin, Seth Smith, and Franklin Gutierrez. All of these players are good, but none are great. Aoki will hit for a good average, Martin has not hit well, Smith was once a solid player but, age has caught up to him, and Gutierrez is the definition of OK. This outfield will be boring, not much more to say than that.
The infield is similar. Kyle Seager is fun but, will most likely be forgotten as his brother Corey takes over in Los Angeles. Ketel Marte is 22 and could be a fine major league player. The only problem is that he wont be a star. He, like most of this team will be good but, not great. Robinson Cano has been solid but not the Superstar Seattle wanted. His power numbers have dropped off a cliff seemingly and age is not on his side. He will be good like every year but, unless he regains that power stroke he will not be the Superstar Seattle desperately needs. Adding Adam Lind to play first adds power and stability to the position. He is again like the rest of this team, solid, but nothing amazing. He will play well and hit 20+ homeruns this year. Nelson Cruz was a great addition to the team. He was the only really exciting hitter last year for this squad. For a time it seemed like he alone could carry this team on his back along with his 44 homeruns. Sadly that was not the case. Cruz is 35 this year and he should start slowing down, right? Chris Iannetta will be the catcher this year. He is a good defender with no bat. They are all solid but, will any of them bring the necessary boost that the Mariners need? I do not believe so.
The starting rotation is a little more interesting. Wade Miley, Taijuan Walker and Nate Karns are like the rest of this team, solid but nothing great. King Felix is well the King of Seattle. He is always in the talk for Cy Young and has been the backbone for this lackluster pitching staff. I am sure he will be in talks for the Cy Young again this year. Iwakuma won 15 games last year and proved he could be the number 2 behind the King. This was something Seattle has needed for a long time. The only problem is that he is heading into his age 35 season and will most likely not be able to put up the numbers as he has been for much longer.
The bullpen has some intriguing players but again none of them are great. Steve Cishek will be trying to get back into form as he once was in Miami. Joaquin Benoit has always been a good option in the pen and will most likely continue to be just that. Lastly the addition of Nick Vincent from the Padres is a move that will go under the radar but, should prove to be a great one for the Mariners.
The Mariners are a good team, do not get me wrong. The problem is they are boring. They do not have what it takes to push for the division or a playoff spot. Some people are picking them as a dark horse team but, until there is a spark from one of their players I do not foresee them being anything more than a .500 team.
Player to Watch: King Felix
4th Place: Oakland Athletics
Courtesy of: en.wikipedia.org
Billy Beane has been doing Billy Beane things. He has brought together a cheap but, intriguing roster. I do have them finishing 4th just to be safe but, I think this team could make a charge at the wild card if certain things can go their way.
Their outfield consists of Khris Davis, Billy Burns, Josh Reddick, Coco Crisp, and Chris Coghlan. These 5 could be a great rotation. Davis and Reddick bring power. They could each hit 25+ homeruns this year. Burns and Crisp bring the speed and Coghlan is just solid all around. They could do great things as a group. If Davis can reach his full potential watch out, he could be a monster hitter. Billy Burns is probably the most exciting player you have never heard about. He is the typical Billy Beane player.
The infield should be interesting as well. Marcus Semien could be very good if he can bring down the strikeout numbers. The A’s received him in a trade with the White Sox last year and he has been pegged as their Shortstop of the Future. Jed Lowrie is always a solid veteran to have on your team. He is manning second because age is starting to catch up with him but, his bat should still provide solid at-bats. Yonder Alonso, Mark Cahna, and Billy Butler will all be splitting time at DH and first base. Alonso was picked up from the Padres last year and has been a solid everyday player. He can hit for contact and has gap power. If he can hit with runner is scoring position and add some more power, Alonso could finally reach the potential many thought he had. Steven Vogt was a suprise player last year. He hit 18 homeruns and drove in 71. He is a solid bat and even better behind the plate.
The rotation will be where this team will need to improve. They have a lot of injuries to deal with and not much talent to speak of. They will be the reason this team does not make the playoffs and they are why I have them fourth. Of course their is one Superstar, Sonny Gray. Everything I said before only talks about the rest of the rotation. I think Gray could win the Cy Young away this year. He has amazing stuff and is very collected for how young he is. People need to start paying attention to him. The only problem is that knowing Billy Beane he could get traded if the season completely implodes.
The bullpen will be a major strength for this team. They have the potential to be one of the best ones in the game. Sean Doolittle will be closing this year and doing his normal thing of getting outs as long as he is healthy. They brought in Ryan Madson and John Axford who were both previously All-Star type closers. If they can get back into form, watch out. These three could be what they Pirates had a few years ago with Grilli, Melancon, and Watson. Liam Hendricks and Mark Rzepczynski also have a track record of getting the job done. This bullpen could be amazing and if the starters can keep the game close and give it over to the pen the A’s could win many more games than people are predicting, including myself.
This team has potential if the moves they have made pay off. They could make the playoffs as a wild card. Sadly it is more likely that they will finish right around .500 because not every move can always pay off.
Player(s) to Watch: Sonny Gray and Billy Burns
5th Place: Los Angeles Angels
Courtesy of: en.wikipedia.org
I know many of you have been wondering where this team would be. I can tell you right now that this team is vastly overrated because of two players, Mike Trout (he is not overrated, just the team) and Albert Pujols (he is overrated). They will have a bad year for many reasons, one being money and two being the lack of any prospects. This is normally any team’s nightmare. When you have all your money sunk into just a few players and no prospects that means rough years are heading your way and I think that starts this year.
The outfield of Daniel Nava, Craig Gentry, Mike Trout and Kole Calhoun is just not good. Left Field will be platooned by Nava and Gentry and neither of them are all that great. Trout is obviously one of the best players in baseball so no matter what else I say, much of it does not apply to him. Calhoun is solid but, it seems as though he has already reached his best. I think that last year will be the best year he ever has which again is not bad but, left much to be desired.
The infield is a train wreck outside of Andrelton Simmons. Yunel Escobar is decent but, nothing great. Johnny Giavotella is serviceable at best. CJ Cron is a similar player to Calhoun except he plays first base. Albert Pujols is one of the best players ever and he hit 40 bombs last year but, he is still a huge chunk of their payroll and he can’t carry teams like he used to. Simmons is a wizard on the field and is improving at the plate. The problem is that the Angels gave up so much to get him and for what reason? They will not be good this year. These kinds of moves are made by GM’s and Front Offices who are afraid to lose their jobs. Lastly Carlos Perez and Giovanni Soto are behind the plate and are decent at best. Perez is young and has some potential but, I would not count on him for much.
The rotation is not terrible but, there are many questions left unanswered. CJ Wilson is having shoulder problems which means it is just swollen and he isn’t out for very long or, it means surgery and he is out for quite awhile. Garret Richards has the potential to be solid but, I just do not know if he has what it takes to be the Ace for a team. 2014 was a great year for him but, 2015 was average. Alex Heaney was a top prospect for the Marlins and has been traded around a bit. If, and I really do mean if, he can pull it all together he could be a nice young player. I just have not seen enough of him to be convinced that he will be able to. Santiago and Shoemaker are not bad but, they are not playoff caliber players and Jared Weaver is in the twilight of his career.
The bullpen has even more questions than the rotation. How much longer can Street be this good? He and Joe Smith are the only good players in a very average bullpen. Will anyone step up? Does their depleted farm system have a diamond in the rough? They do not have the money to go out and get anyone and their farm system is atrocious.
The Angels are heading into what could be a long string of bad years. They will need to try and dump contracts near the trade deadline to try and revamp this team. They have no money and a bad farm system. All of this spells impending doom for a once great franchise. They may be in the hunt near the beginning of the year but, eventually I think it will all fall apart. The worst part about this is that they cannot blame it on injuries. As of now Wilson is their only injury problem. This could be the year the Angels start to fall apart.