angels, mike trout

Is the Angels’ Championship window closing?

Every team has had a window to win a World Series Championship at some point during their history. By window, I mean having the right collection of great players at the right time. For the most part, a team needs a superstar along with a good collection of supporting players, a solid pitching staff and a bullpen that won’t blow the game in the late innings. This is also most often combined with having a strong farm system in case of an emergency, and young players to bring up to replace aging ones. Windows can stay open for a few years or just one, but once they close, it is usually for good.

So what about the Los Angeles Angels? What’s their window? Is it even still open? It seems like a silly question to ask given they have arguably the league’s best player in 24-year-old Mike Trout. Then there is  Albert Pujols, who may be having a comeback year, at least in his home run numbers, but two players cannot win a championship on their own no matter how good they may be.

Albert Pujols, angels
Albert Pujols. Getty Images.

Then there is the question of how long Pujols can keep this kind of production up. The two seasons prior to this one, where he has had a renaissance of sorts when it comes to home runs, Pujols failed to hit 30 home runs for the first time in his career. Now he is battling a nagging foot injury and his production has already slowed. How long will the 35-year-old slugger stay healthy enough to hit 30-plus homers a season, and will he be valuable when he isn’t?

It’s possible he will be fine, but the more likely scenario is that his numbers will inevitably begin to decline whether due to age or injury. A career .313 hitter, his batting average is also suffering immensely. He’s currently hitting just .248.

Without Pujols to back up Trout, who else do the Angels have to supply hits and runs? Kole Calhoun would have to be the team’s next best hitter, batting .269 with 23 home runs and 72 RBI. While those numbers are not bad, they aren’t enough to take over or supplement Pujols should he start to decline. Together, Trout and Pujols have combined to hit just about half of the team’s home runs and almost one-third of the team’s RBI. When you add Calhoun’s numbers, the three players together have driven in over half of the team’s runs and hit just over 60 percent of the team’s home runs. This is not a good sign for the Angels; championships are not won based on the offensive production of three players.

The Angels’ pitching, while not a complete disaster, needs help sooner than later. Garrett Richards and Hector Santiago have been good for Los Angeles in 2015; each are in double-digits in number of quality starts, but Santiago still has a losing win-loss record (8-9) and not one of the Angels starters has an ERA under 3.00.

Matt shoemaker, angels
Matt Shoemaker. Getty Images.

Santiago leads the team in ERA with 3.44 and Richards is second with an ERA of 3.77. The rest of the rotation has been spotty at best. Both Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson have battled injuries, with Wilson’s being season-ending. There are no guarantees as to what form the almost-35-year-old will return in next year.

Prospect Andrew Heaney has shown promise going 6-3 with a 3.52 ERA in 14 starts for the Angels, but he still needs to develop. He’s pitched just 84.1 big league innings. The Angels’ other “fill-in” pitcher, Matt Shoemaker, has been inconsistent at best and it’s impossible to predict which Shoemaker the team will see from start to start.

Lucky for the Angels, they have no shortage of pitching in their farm system, although at the beginning of 2015 their minor league system was ranked 28th out of 30 by Baseball America, which doesn’t say much about the pitchers on that list.

The Angels farm system is so pitching-heavy that they have been unable to fill some much needed holes at second base, catcher, the DH position and left field. On their list of top-ten prospects at the beginning of 2015, the first five were all pitchers and there were just three position players, all infielders, rounding out the top ten.

Taylor Ward, Angels
Taylor Ward. Getty Images.

The Angels began to right the ship this year with eight out of their top ten draft picks being position players, but as previously mentioned, when windows close they can close for quite some time. It will take the Angels years to develop these 2015 draft picks and that is assuming they all end up making it, although their top pick, catcher Taylor Ward has been a pleasant surprise so far for Los Angeles. Still, his MLB ETA is likely a year or two away at best, meaning he may not factor in before that window slams shut.

The only real positive on the Angels’ side is Trout’s age. He is still young enough to potentially play with some of these new draft picks, but again, that’s assuming these kids are able to develop into big leaguers at all. It’s anybody’s guess when the Angels’ next window to win a championship will be. 

The current window isn’t closed. The Angles could still make the postseason, though they are falling fast. But if they don’t, it’s time to re-tool. That window is creeping shut, and once it is, it can be really hard to open.

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