Saturday, November 26, 2016

By Robert Cunningham, Staff Writer - 

Author’s Note: If you missed the first two installments you can find Part I here and Part II, here.

Before we begin delving into the roster on a position by position basis it would be good to identify which players on the team Billy Eppler most likely plans to build around in 2017 and beyond.

The following players appear to be clear cut building blocks that will not be traded in the foreseeable future:

Mike Trout                                         Andrew Heaney
Kole Calhoun                                     Matt Shoemaker
Andrelton Simmons                           Tyler Skaggs
Albert Pujols                                      Cam Bedrosian
Garrett Richards                            Alex Meyer

Of course the Angels universe revolves around superstar MVP Mike Trout. You cannot ask for a better centerpiece (or if you prefer ‘centerfieldpiece’) to place in your dining room so the Angels special ordered a $150MM Shaq-sized table to set it on for a few years.

To help set that table further, Kole Calhoun provides high quality defense and above average offense making him a very valuable part of this current squad. He really flies under the radar but he is one of the few guys in baseball that is average or above across the standard 5 tools (average, power, base running, throwing arm, and defense). Calhoun is a potential extension candidate to buy out his remaining arbitration years.

Andrelton Simmons brings a fantastic throwing arm and is arguably the best defensive player in all of baseball. Billy Eppler brought Andrelton in with the specific purpose of building a pitching staff that will put the ball in play to him as often as humanly possible, maximizing the value of his glove.

Albert Pujols became a building block the moment he signed a 10 year, $240MM contract. Certainly that type of contract is very difficult to trade particularly when he doesn’t quite perform like a $24MM player should. All that being said Pujols did have a solid year in 2016 and he still has thump in his bat making him a mainstay in the middle of the order for the next couple of years.

The feel good story of the year goes to Garrett Richards who appears to have recovered from his UCL tear and is currently on track to start next season. When Richards is healthy he is the ace of a staff and the Angels hope to maximize that ability over his remaining two years of control. If things go well in 2017 it would not be surprising to see the front office offer Garrett an extension contract.

Although Andrew Heaney is out next season recovering from Tommy John Surgery the Angels very likely look at him as a core player in 2018 and beyond. Heaney has solid upside (#2/#3) if he returns healthy and effective and the Angels very likely want to pair him with Skaggs as the team’s two primary left-handed starters after next season.

Shoemaker’s turnaround this year is nothing short of incredible. After his one-game demotion to AAA on May 6th, 2016, Matt returned to the Majors and over the next 22 games he ran a 18.9% K%-BB% and .255 BAA, good for a 3.10 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP. That is ace level behavior and if Shoemaker can replicate that in 2017 and beyond it will bode very well for the Angels future playoff hopes. If Matt does perform well next year he could be an extension candidate as well.

Tyler Skaggs is another wild card for the Halos but he certainly has the prospect pedigree to be an impact starter and he is likely viewed as a core player for next year and beyond. Tyler can be that second quality lefty in the rotation and is controlled through 2020. He has serious upside if he is healthy and effective and if the trio of Richards, Shoemaker, and Skaggs perform like they are capable; the 2017 rotation will look markedly different from the 2016 version. If Tyler performs well next year he too could be offered an extension contract.

It seems like only yesterday that the author interviewed Cam Bedrosian (May 2014) in the home clubhouse hallway at Dickey-Stephens Park, the former AA Angels affiliate, but boy has he come a long way, especially in 2016. Clearly Cam is finding his rhythm and it would not be surprising to see him take over the closer role sooner rather than later. Bedrosian will likely be our best reliever entering 2017 and quite frankly it couldn’t have come at a better time.

Finally Alex Meyer, the recent Eppler acquisition in the Hector Santiago trade, seems primed for an opportunity to join the rotation or bullpen. Billy specifically targeted Meyer for his power arm and excellent Minor League history of putting the ball on the ground which will only play in to Eppler’s emerging strategic foundation of quality infield defense led by his captain, Simmons. Alex is under team control through 2022 and the Angels are hoping he can make a serious impact in the rotation or as high leverage relief (probably the latter).

Although any player can be traded these ten core players are the most likely to stay over the next 2-4 years. Some might disagree with this list or feel that someone was left out but this group represents the probable foundation that Eppler will build upon.

In the next section we will discuss the starting pitching rotation.
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