The Angels' beleaguered bullpen gets some reinforcement in the form of a righty with eye-popping peripherals.
The Situation: In recent years, Angels manager Mike Scioscia hasn’t had many reliable bullpen options to work with, and that’s continued to be the case in 2014. Anaheim’s bullpen entered play on Wednesday with a 4.32 ERA, the fifth-highest mark in the majors. In search of setup assistance, the Angels have called up 22-year-old right-hander Cam Bedrosian from Double-A Arkansas, where he’d posted some eye-popping numbers. He saw his first action on Tuesday, setting down the Astros in order with one K.
The rest of this article is restricted to Baseball Prospectus Subscribers.
Not a subscriber?
Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get access to the best baseball content on the web.
Is the Angels' newly promoted prospect worth your time, attention, and dynasty-league dollars?
The Situation: Key injuries and a lack of production have tested the Angels’ internal depth, and the team is now turning to C.J. Cron (the no. 3-ranked prospect in the system entering 2014) in hopes that he can fill the void.
Background: With their first-round selection (no. 17 overall) in the 2011 draft, the Angels opted to go the safe route, taking Cron, an advanced college bat with a history of performance. From the day Cron entered pro ball, talent evaluators labeled the Utah University product a designated hitter, alluding to his lack of defensive value while simultaneously putting enormous pressure on the bat. Despite his college polish, the Angels have taken it slowly with Cron, with annual promotions up the minor league ranks. He stumbled some in Double-A last year but put up a .319/.369/.602 slash line in 28 games in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.
What did the 2005 Angels' best-in-baseball farm system turn out to be worth?
In the late 2000s, when the Angels’ farm system (weakened mostly by promotions and a lack of early first-round draft picks) started to place low in organizational rankings, some local writers would respond with a pithy counterpoint: In 2000, the Angels were ranked 29th by Baseball America, and two years later they won the World Series. This supposeduly irrefutable refutation was trotted out so reliably it seemed likely that reporters were parroting the club's own words. You never got the sense that the Angels, as an organization, thought much of organizational rankings.
The organizational rankings, in time, thought much more of the Angels. They improved from 29th to 25th to 17th to fifth to third and, finally, before the 2005 season, they were baseball’s no. 1 farm system, according to both BA and John Sickels. Baseball Prospectus didn’t do org rankings yet, but that year's top prospects list had two Angels in the top five. The Angels had made this great leap forward while also dramatically upgrading their big-league results; as Matt Welch writes in the Angels team essay in this year’s BP Annual, “it almost felt like the Angels had beaten baseball's business cycle.”
It's Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton, but it's not just Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton.
There’s no Grand Theory here. I just keep getting asked—by people at church, family members, Ben—why the Angels have been so bad, and I just stutter a bunch of stuff about Albert Pujols’ legs, and Josh Hamilton’s slump, and Jered Weaver’s injury, and small samples. But it’s not just Albert Pujols’ legs, or Josh Hamilton’s slump, or Jered Weaver’s injury. Or even small samples. Of the 14 players who had starting jobs with the Angels on Opening Day—the nine regulars, and the five members of the starting rotation—11 are underperforming their PECOTA projections. Of the three who aren’t, Mike Trout is perceived as underperforming, and Peter Bourjos might soon be underperforming, as he sits on the DL and waits as games pass him by. And this doesn’t even include the bullpen, which has the American League’s 13th-best ERA, despite a pitcher’s park and a good group of defenders behind it.
So if somebody says it’s because of Hamilton, push back. If they say it’s because of Pujols, argue! It’s nearly the whole team, and this is simply an accounting of how it’s the whole team:
I'm dumb, so when I see something like the Angels falling nine games out of first place after 31 games, I think "welp, that'll do it then." And then when I look at the playoff odds and see that they're still 20 percent likely to make the playoffs, I'm surprised. I understand the mechanisms at work -- the Angels are probably a good team, and so the odds expect them to play like a good team going forward -- but it's impossible to imagine any team making up an 11-20 stretch. It's impossible to imagine it because I'm dumb. It shouldn't be that hard to imagine.
If everyone on the Astros played to their 90th-percentile projections, and everyone on the Angels played to their 10th-percentile projections, which would win more games?
Last year around this time I had plans to compare the Astros’ teamwide PECOTA projections to those of a variety of lower-level squads: the best Triple-A roster, the best Double-A roster, an All-Star High-A team, etc. I didn’t get to it, and then the season started, and I still didn’t get to it, because the Astros started off hot and it would have been weird to have run that piece about a team that was 22-23 in mid-May. I was sort of glad I didn’t run it, because the longer I lived with the idea the more it started to feel mean.
So this year, I have a similar idea, and I’m rushing it out before the guilt kicks in. Again I’m going to be exploring just how bad the worst team in baseball is. Or just how good the worst team in baseball is. That’s the point of it, after all. It’s not to prove that the Astros are as bad as, say, a team of High-A All-Stars. It’s to see if the Astros are as bad as a team of High-A All-Stars, and if they’re significantly better (as I suspect they would have been), then we’ve learned a little something about baseball.