Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

MLB News

Angels' confidence unshaken in AL West

Scioscia's club just fine with spotlight on division rivals
MLB.com @TracyRingolsby

TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Angels have become an afterthought in the American League West.

The Astros are the in thing out West, having rallied from a 416-loss, four-year struggle to reach the AL Division Series last year with a young nucleus that creates anticipation of what lies ahead. The Rangers are the defending division champions thanks to a late-season surge despite a myriad injuries that never did allow them to be at full strength.

TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Angels have become an afterthought in the American League West.

The Astros are the in thing out West, having rallied from a 416-loss, four-year struggle to reach the AL Division Series last year with a young nucleus that creates anticipation of what lies ahead. The Rangers are the defending division champions thanks to a late-season surge despite a myriad injuries that never did allow them to be at full strength.

The Mariners shook up their front office in late August and shook up their roster in the offseason, bringing in left fielder Leonys Martin from the Rangers, left fielder Nori Aoki from the Giants, first baseman Adam Lind from the Brewers, catcher Chris Iannetta from the Angels and lefty Wade Miley from the Red Sox.

The Halos? Well, their offseason -- which saw them trade for shortstop Andrelton Simmons and third baseman Yunel Escobar -- winded down on a sour note when a recent three-team deal with Cincinnati and Toronto fell apart and they were unable to acquire Blue Jays outfielder Michael Saunders. And then they couldn't reach agreement with free agent Austin Jackson in another effort to beef up their left-field spot.

So when the talk about what lies ahead in the AL West this summer, the Angels don't get much attention.

Big deal? Nah.

"I love it,'' manager Mike Scioscia said. "I had a great offseason."

Scioscia's not into what people expect. He's into what happens between the start of April and end of October.

It's not always a happy ending, but the Halos have more postseason appearances (seven) in the past 14 years than any team in the AL West, and their composite .555 winning percentage over that stretch is third best in baseball behind the Yankees (.585) and Cardinals (.563).

And there is a definite confidence in the Angels' spring camp.

Spring Training 2016

The Halos may not have that hands-down ace who would be a no-brainer to take the ball for a World Series Game 7, but they do have eight candidates to choose from for the rotation, each of whom has proven capable of being a solid member of the staff.

The Angels do have a solid bullpen with Huston Street in the closer role. And they have two of the most dangerous hitters in the game in Mike Trout and Albert Pujols, who is recovering from right foot surgery but is convinced he will be ready for Opening Day. Pujols has accepted the idea he will DH more often as a concession to age and health.

"The way of the world has gone is everyone loves the exciting new toy," Street said. "But we have a really good team to start with. It's important to note we did not play that good last year and finished one game behind a certain team [the Astros] who everyone said played good.

"So what happens this year if we play good, not even great, but good, this year? We are capable of that, but we have to do it. Last year we didn't do it. That's why we didn't go to the postseason."

The Halos only had four hitters (Kole Calhoun, Erick Aybar, Pujols and Trout) who had the 502 plate appearances to qualify for a batting title, and only two starters (Garrett Richards and Hector Santiago) with the 162 innings required to qualify for an ERA title.

This year …

"It's why you play the season, but it's exciting to think about what can happen or us this year,'' Street said.

Video: Angels storylines heading into the 2016 season

Though they missed on Jackson and Saunders to fill a platoon concern in left field, the Angels do have at least an alternative to a left-field situation that ranked last in the Majors last year in OPS (.592), runs (50), home runs (nine) and RBIs (51). They committed a total of $2.375 million to sign Daniel Nava and Craig Gentry, with the belief they can rebound from the struggles they faced last season.

With Tyler Skaggs returning after 18 months recovering from Tommy John surgery, the Halos have eight proven starters, including Santiago, Richards, Jered Weaver, Matt Shoemaker, C.J. Wilson, Andrew Heaney and Nick Tropeano.

And Street, the closer, is quick to point out that have a durable bullpen. He was one of five Angels relievers to make 60-plus appearances last year, seven who appeared in more than 45 games.

"I have a lot of confidence in these guys," Street said. "I know we have a good team."

Street knows that a rotation that has Santiago, Shoemaker and Tropeano battling for a spot is deep. It may not have a Madison Bumgarner or Zack Greinke type but, "Did the Royals have that? No. They had a collection of quality guys. They were a team and played hard. I feel that's what we have.''

It is a good feeling for the Angels, even if nobody seemed too impressed during the offseason.

Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com.

Los Angeles Angels, Huston Street