Los Angeles Angels 2021 and Beyond, Part 2: The Roster

Los Angeles Angels

Angels 2021 and Beyond: The Angels Roster

The Los Angeles Angels 2021 roster should be very different than the 2020 version. If you read Part I, you’ll know that major offseason roster changes aren’t always a positive in Anaheim. Now that the team has hired Atlanta Braves assistant general manager Perry Minasian to be their new general manager, they can focus on the 40-man roster. So let’s take an in-depth look at the Angels roster, from the Rule 5 decisions to the players who will play a part in 2021 and beyond.

The G.O.A.T.

Mike Trout: Another year, another Silver Slugger. Which happens to be more than anyone in baseball history through their Age-28 season. Trout is still the best player in baseball. Maybe the best ever. Prediction: Mike Trout will be a superstar in 2021 and beyond.

The Superstar

Anthony Rendon:  Finished 2nd in the AL in OBP to DJ LeMahieu. He finished 10th in MVP voting. Maybe the Los Angeles Angels should have signed Gerrit Cole rather than Rendon, but no one is going to be too upset by his superstar level play for the next six seasons.

The Core

David Fletcher: His yearly improvement saw his OPS+ shoot up to 121. His defense is very good, if not excellent. The only question for him in 2021 is whether he will be playing shortstop or second base, given the departure of Andrelton Simmons. Well, that and when do they sign him long term.

Dylan Bundy: The signs were there. Bundy’s acquisition was ex-GM Billy Eppler’s last major (positive) addition to the Los Angeles Angels roster. While Bundy improved during his first season in Anaheim, there were certain facts that pointed to a breakout. While not necessarily an ace, Bundy is a quality, top of the rotation starter. Soon, the Angels will have to decide if they are going to pay him like one as he will be a free agent after next season.

Griffin Canning: The Gold Glove winner saw his peripherals worsen in 2020, yet his ERA went down. Small sample sizes allow for such discrepancies, yet the experience of another season will help Canning. Even now, he’s a solid mid-rotation starter. With a little more improvement he will ascend to the top of the Angels rotation. Plus, there is the added benefit of Canning being on his rookie contract.

Andrew Heaney: His FIP always seems to be lower than his ERA which means Heaney might be saddled with some bad luck. Whether that’s true or not, Heaney seems better suited for the bottom of the rotation than the top. While he is certain to get a raise in arbitration, a so-so showing in 2021 might see Heaney on the trading block.

The Fingers Crossed N0t-A-Flukes

Max Stassi: He was solid in 2020 with a .886 OPS. Hopefully, offseason hip surgery won’t cut into too much of his playing time in 2021. Is he a starter? The club will have to answer that question this offseason.

Jared Walsh: The Angels roster was ignited by the power of Walsh in 2020. His record-breaking run down the stretch kept the Angels in the playoff hunt until the last weekend. With one season left of Pujols, Walsh will continue his 2020 breakout while splitting time. After that, firstbase will be his.

Jaime Barria: The 2020 campaign was a nice bounce-back for Barria. After an impressive rookie year in 2018, Barria struggled mightily in 2019. With his return to form in 2020, Barria has an excellent chance of cracking the rotation in 2021 and beyond.

Mike Mayers: Maybe the only bright spot in the Angels bullpen, Mayers exceeded even the team’s highest expectations for him. While it’s tough to expect a similar full season in 2021, Mayers will definitely be in an important role moving forward.

The Fingers Crossed Was-A-Flukes

Jo Adell: 2020 was hard on Adell. His .161/.212/.266 line and iffy defense earned him a -1.5 bWAR and -1.3 fWAR; both were lowest among position players. While the shine might have worn off, many in the Angels organization believe Adell still has star potential.

Shohei Ohtani: He looked off at the plate all season. His .190 average and .657 OPS were major disappointments. Yet, there’s no reason to believe he won’t return to 2019 form with a normal offseason. Yet, he also looked off on the mound all season as well- all two games. Start one: disaster. Start two: hardly better. He wasn’t necessarily “injured” but that was it for his season on the rubber. The team is committed to Ohtani returning to the mound in 2021 and he’s already started his offseason throwing program, yet questions remain. If Ohtani’s production doesn’t improve next season, the two-way experiment might need to come to an end.

Justin Upton: Not quite the lost cause Angels fans might think. Although he started off horrendously, Upton closed the year strong with a .936 OPS from September to the end of the season. The $51 million owed over the next two seasons…well, that’s still hard to swallow. For now, Upton will spend time in left field and as the designated hitter. Hopefully, he doesn’t block Brandon Marsh for too long.

Ty Buttrey: His tough 2020 won’t affect his roster spot since Buttrey is still pre-arbitration. If his K/9 returns to pre-2020 levels, he should be fine. As it currently stands, Buttrey is one of the better options in the bullpen.

Hansel Robles: Slated to make $3.85 million in 2020, Robles might be on his way out. While the Angels might hold out hope that he returns to his 2019 form, new GM Perry Minasian will have to find places to save as he reshapes the Angels roster. This could be one.

Jose Suarez: After two disastrous starts in 2020, Suarez sports a career 7.99 ERA over 21 games (17 starts). He’ll be 23 in January and 2021 might very well be his last shot with the Angels.

Major League Depth

Anthony Bemboom: Solid defensive catcher. Cheap. The Angels would love a repeat of 2020 at the plate. Will the team count on him to start while Stassi recovers?

Justin Anderson: Should be out most of 2021 after having Tommy John surgery.

Matt Andriese: Arbitration eligible. The Angels could move on from Andriese depending on his raise from the $1.35 million he (should have) made in 2020.

Felix Pena: Also arbitration eligible. Pena is a swiss-army pitcher who should remain cheap.S

Noe Ramirez: Another arbitration eligible reliever, Ramirez has steadily improved over three seasons. His K/9 in 2020 does raise some concerns.

Young Pups

Jahmai Jones: Triple-A for 2021- he still needs work. He still factors into the team’s plans for beyond 2021…as long as the bat returns.

Luis Rengifo: Could be in line to be an everyday player with the departure of Simmons. His production at the plate better return, however, or the team could be looking for a middle infielder.

Patrick Sandoval: Hasn’t turned the corner yet. 2021 will be an important season for him.

Last Chance Brigade

Franklin Barreto: Former 1st round pick. Barreto has a .175 career batting average in 228 at-bats. And he’s not amazing defensively. The Angels must be hoping the change of scenery will help.

Matt Thaiss: After an underwhelming minor league career, the former 1st round pick got his shot in 2019. It didn’t go well. He didn’t play much in 2020. Yet, he’s still cheap so the Angels will keep him around but he shouldn’t be a regular.

Taylor Ward: Another 1st rounder who hasn’t produced. He doesn’t hit much. No real power. Bad defensively. Time for the Angels to move on from Ward.

Minor Leagues or Bus Ticket?

Luke Bard: Minors. Bullpen depth if nothing else.

Kyle Keller: Minors. Ditto.

Keynan Middleton: Minors. Key is up for arbitration, and maybe too expensive for the corner-cutting Angels. But, he’s worth the gamble.

Hoby Milner: Bus ticket. He had an 8.10 ERA. And honestly, it felt like it was much higher than that.

Dillon Peters: Bus ticket. Why? Because he doesn’t have any minor league options left. So, he can take that 5.83 career ERA elsewhere.

Jose Quijada: Minors. His youth justifies more experience in the minors. Even if his 7.36 ERA was difficult to stomach.

Gerardo Reyes: Minors. He didn’t pitch in 2020, which means he wasn’t part of a disastrous Angels bullpen. That alone gets him another chance in 2021.

Hector Yan: Minors. Yan has never pitched above Single-A. While the team views him as a starter, he could be an interesting bullpen piece.  Either way, he doesn’t fit into the big club’s plan for 2021.

Rule 5 Decisions

The Angels have until November 20th to decide whether or not to protect these players. Currently, there are 36 players on the 40-man roster.

Brandon Marsh: Protected. The Angels top prospect and best trade chip, Marsh will be protected before the deadline. He could end up seeing time in Anaheim in 2021 if things break right for him.

Chris Rodriguez: Protected. A difficult decision due to his injury history, Rodriguez’s addition to the 40-man roster seems like a 50/50 situation. Yet, when healthy, he has an electric arm.

Packy Naughton: Protected. Acquired in the trade for Brian Goodwin, Naughton should be an option in 2021. Whether that will be a starter or reliever remains to be seen.

Jose Soriano: Protected…? A tough call for the new Angels GM. Soriano is not ready for the majors; he spent 2019 in Low A. Yet, his arm is electric so another club could gamble on it in the back of their bullpen.

Oliver Ortega: Protected. The Angels need to have options for their pitching staff. Although Ortega struggled in his five starts in Double-A in 2019, his minor league career suggests that he will be part of a big league staff.

Livan Soto: Unprotected. No need; he hit .220 in Low A in 2019.

Orlando Martinez: Unprotected. Has yet to play in Double-A and his upside doesn’t warrant keeping him on a big league roster in 2021.

Kevin Maitan: Unprotected. Once billed as the next Chipper Jones, Maitan was the top-rated international prospect in 2016. Still only 20, Maitan hasn’t produced in the minor leagues.

Leonardo Rivas: Unprotected. He figures to be a big-league backup due to his lack of power.

Three Other Prospects Worth Knowing

Reid Detmers: The Los Angeles Angels 1st round pick in 2020, Detmers pitched at the team’s alternate site in Long Beach. Detmers was not added to the 40-man roster in 2020, which was the right move. He could, however, be on the Angels roster as soon as 2021.

Jordyn Adams: Phenomenal athlete. The Angels brought Adams to Long Beach to get more reps during 2020. The team has been aggressive with him so he might start 2021 in Double-A, meaning he’ll be knocking on the door soon. His name is bandied about often in Angels trade options.

Jeremiah Jackson: Big-swinging middle infielders are becoming the norm and Jackson fits right into that mix. He led the Pioneer League with 23 home runs in 65 games during the 2019 season and spent time in Long Beach at the alternate site during 2020. Like Adams, Jackson could be moved to shore up their pitching.

The Swan Song

Albert Pujols: It’s finally over. This ESPN Insider article from 2016 pegged Pujols as the worst contract in Major League Baseball (You can’t read the whole thing, but you can see #1). And, it’s only gotten worse in the four years since. After 2021, there will be no more Pujols on the Angels lineup cards. That alone improves the Los Angeles Angels roster and means a few more wins every season.

In Closing

The Los Angeles Angels in 2021 might look similar to the team that came up short in 2020. But don’t let that get you down, Angels fans. The anchor that is the Albert Pujols contract comes off the books at the end of the season. Shohei Ohtani will be healthy. Justin Upton will bounce back. And Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon will do what they always do. The changes to the Angels roster should lean toward the pitching side of things. Does that mean a free agent signing? Or a trade? That remains to be seen.

In the final part of the Los Angeles Angels 2021 and Beyond trilogy, we will look at offseason moves that new GM Perry Minasian can make to improve the Angels roster in both the short and long term. Although new GM’s should be allowed a year or two to reshape the organization, Angels fans will not be pacified by “stay the course” type rhetoric. The playoff drought is far too long for that.

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