Los Angeles Angels: 6 Things to Watch for in Team's September Games
Don't go reaching for the TV Guide or unloading your remaining Los Angeles Angels tickets to the closest person willing to take them just yet. The final month of the Angels' season has plenty of opportunity to provide must-see TV, with interesting scenarios, mini drama and difficult decision-making.
You just have to know what is what. Think of it as the final act: the beginning of the end, the end of the end, and the beginning of the new beginning.
It's all there, wrapped up in one, final month.
Sure, from now until the beginning of October, there will be mostly an abundance of second-guesses and couch coaching/managing towards the Angels; with the payroll, the top-tier talent and the heavily covered hype form the offseason, not making the playoffs—not making the World Series—will sometimes cause that to happen.
But all is not lost, unlike the Anaheim part of the Angels name, apparently. But I will leave that to owner Arte Moreno to decide. There are more important matters to dissect.
Because the team is so far out of the MLB playoff race, they are in a unique—and unwanted—position: They can begin the rebuild for 2014 while 2013 is still two months from completion.
While most of the position battles will be left to the days of spring training to finalize, all of the current players are being looked at again and again, with the understanding that change is near. (Yep, even Mike Trout, though his scenario weighs more in 2015 and 2106.)
And if playing spoiler is not enough to sway watching your habits during this seemingly never-ending season, well, then here are six things to look for in September.
The final act...
Note: All stats and schedule info was provided courtesy of MLB.com unless otherwise noted.
Mike Trout's Historic Finish
If you ever needed a reason to continue watching Angels games, Mike Trout would be it.
Though he will fall short of the MVP voting this season, Trout continues to prove that he is not just an average MLB player, especially when considering the finish he is on pace to achieve.
According to LA Times' Bill Shaikin, Trout has a chance to join Rickey Henderson and Paul Molitor as the only players since 1925 to finish with 1.000 OPS and 25 stolen bases. Trout's is current OPS is 1.008, so this uncommon feat is not out of the question.
That's impressive company, no question. But in terms of Angels' history, should Trout manage to stay at 1.008 for the year, he would tie Troy Glaus' impressive OPS mark back in 2000.
Regardless of which historical way you take it, Trout is reason enough to tune in in September. At least... to Trout's at-bats.
A .500 Finish?
This may have seemed like a crazy notion a few weeks back, but the Angels are currently on a hot streak, winning nine of their last 10.
The pitching has been great.
The hitting has been great.
Mike Scioscia is making a strong case for Manager of the...Month.
The team is currently 64-72, leaving an eight-game shift in the hands of this team during the final 26 games
Not bad, right?
Sure, it's a stretch just to garner a little enthusiasm, but it could at least build a small level of confidence heading into the offseason.
Hey, maybe it saves a job or two as well? Mike Scioscia and Jerry Dipoto probably wouldn't argue with that.
Jered Weaver's 13th Strikeout
There hasn't been a ton of positives this season for Jered Weaver, but there is an interesting piece of Angels' history that can be reached by the right-hander this September.
If Weaver can total 13 strikeouts over his remaining starts, he would move up to third place for most strikeouts all-time as an Angel, passing Frank Tanana.
It may not seem like much, however, that feat would only add to Weaver's impressive tenure, where he already stands at third place for victories.
The big right-hander should get three or four starts in September, so he would need to fan at least three hitters per game to achieve the honored status.
With Jason Vargas performing as well as he has, it's almost a guarantee the Angels won't have the cash to sign the left-hander as a free agent in the offseason. That's just the reality of owing money to big contracts like Josh Hamilton's, Albert Pujols' and the large chunk going to Vernon Wells next year.
But this isn't time to sulk for the club; they need to start dissecting the entire rotation and deciding what is of vale and what is not. And taking a long look at Jerome Williams this final month is a good start.
The 31-year-old right-hander has shown his sinker can still be effective at times this season, but his consistency has been unconvincing. In his last 10 starts, Williams has not earned a victory while posting a 5.57 ERA. On the year, he is now 5-10 with a 4.68 ERA.
Coming into a third year of arbitration eligibility, Williams will be expected to get a pay increase from the $2 million in 2013. Though it won't be anything close to a bank-breaking bump, the Angels will certainly need to be mindful of the money they shell out this offseason.
They can't allow the "cost-controlled arms concept" to lean more towards the cost side of the scenario and less on the value of the arm that goes with it.
Unlike a lot of the other evaluations coming into the final month of the season, the Angels and Williams won't have the luxury of waiting until spring training to decide what to do.
Williams will need to finish strong, showing signs of consistency, to give the Angels a reason to bring him back.
Grant Green as a Second Baseman
Grant Green is in the midst on an interesting situation: Unlike other position players on the team, his performance in the final month can weigh heavily on how the Angels position their offseason moves, especially with Howie Kendrick.
With the possibility of trading Kendrick this offseason—for pitching, and to free up money—the Angels will need to feel confident that the replacement pieces currently on the roster can pick up the slack.
Green, brought over in the Alberto Callaspo trade with Oakland, has found himself as the Halo's full-time second baseman while Kendrick is on the DL. He has continued to progress in the field, and Green's .299 average is the kind of number that eliminates doubt on the part of the organization.
If he continues to have a solid September at the plate and in the field—his double-play turns still need work—the club may feel better about dealing Kendrick in the offseason.
Without a strong finish, there will certainly be more doubt this offseason and the prospect of trading Kendrick might not even get a second glance or chance.
Prospects to Watch
There isn't a large number of minor leaguers expected to be called up by the Angels in September, due mainly to the surprising fact the Single-A, Double-A and Triple-A clubs are all in the playoffs.
But there should be a few players from the 40-man roster who get called up in the next week.
Right-handed reliever Ryan Braiser was the first brought up from Triple-A Salt Lake, and I wouldn't be surprised to see Nick Maronde and Daniel Stange brought back for another assessment at some point as well.
For the sake of a final review before moving on from a bad situation, Tommy Hanson should also get a call up from Triple-A. But I wouldn't bet on him making any impact, or getting the innings to even have a chance at making an impact.
The good news, however, is that a few top prospects in the Angels' farm system, that are not on the 40-man roster, have shown signs of progression, leaving me to think the "worst system in the minor leagues" may be getting better.
C.J. Cron gives the Angels a nice future at first base, or catcher—if they decide to go that route.
Taylor Lindsey is closer to taking over second base duties following an impressive year at Double-A.
And though Kaleb Cowart had a terrible season, the hope is he can still be the Angels' third baseman as soon as next season, or by mid-year.
Mark Sappington is giving hope to the Angels' pitching woes, holding his own post-promotion to Double-A Arkansas.
In all, there are a few pieces in the system that will help the big league club. Unfortunately, you won’t see them getting any call up this September.