MLB Team Report - Los Angeles Angels - INSIDE PITCH


The Los Angeles Angels returned to the playoffs in 2014 after a four-year absence, putting together the best record in the major leagues. But after surprisingly swift exit from the playoffs, thanks to a sweep by the Kansas City Royals, the Angels were left to ask, "What now?"

The answer is: not much.

While the Angels were disappointed in the end of the season, so much went right throughout the course of six months from April through September that there isn't much that needs fixing.

Mike Trout is the probable American League MVP, Jered Weaver tied for the league lead with 18 wins, Garrett Richards emerged as a potentially dominant starting pitcher, Matt Shoemaker came out of nowhere to win 16 games, Erick Aybar was an All-Star and Gold Glove-caliber shortstop, and the bullpen went from being a weakness to being one of the best in the league with the addition of Joe Smith, Huston Street, Jason Grilli and Fernando Salas.

What hurt the Angels were injuries to two of their starting pitchers -- Richards and Tyler Skaggs -- testing their organizational pitching depth. And it didn't help that C.J. Wilson, usually a consistent and solid starting pitcher, turned into a question mark.

As the Angels look forward to 2015, it is a matter of filling in some of the holes that were exposed. Pitching depth will continue to be a primary focus, while upgrading the bench will also be a priority.

"We're not a team that can't sustain and can't balance what we're doing," Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto told MLB.com. "We like the group of players we have; we feel like we're a well-put-together team. Again, we fell short. Next year, with the full contingent, believing that we will have Garrett Richards back and in large part have a big part of the foundation of this team. We feel we're tweaks and turns from being a very good team again. There's no reason that will change."

The Angels got opposing results from their two big-money players, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton. Pujol still has seven years remaining on a 10-year deal, while Hamilton has three years left on a five-year contract.

Pujols bounced back from his worst year in the big leagues to play in 159 games and drive in 105 runs. Hamilton, though, was hurt for much of the season with a variety of injuries and severely under-performed. He wound up with 10 home runs, none at Angel Stadium, before going 0-for-13 in the playoffs.

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MLB Team Report - Los Angeles Angels - NOTES, QUOTES


RECORD: 98-64, first place in American League West; lost AL Division Series 3-0 to Kansas City Royals

TEAM MVP: Mike Trout isn't only the team MVP, he is the favorite to win the American League MVP. He hit a career-high 36 home runs, and led the league in runs (115), RBIs (111), total bases (338) and extra-base hits (84). At age 23, he became the youngest player ever to lead the majors in both runs and extra-base hits. He was a bargain at $1 million for 2014, but his new contract kicks in for 2015, the first year of a six-year, $144 million deal.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: Left fielder Josh Hamilton got off to a hot start, hitting .444 (12-for-27) with two homers and six RBIs in his first eight games. But he tore a thumb ligament on an ill-advised head-first slide into first, missed two months and slumped virtually the rest of the season. He wound up with 10 homers, none of which came at Angel Stadium. Late in the year, he was bothered by a shoulder injury and played in only one regular-season game after Sept. 4. Yet manager Mike Scioscia included Hamilton on the postseason roster, and he responded by going 0-for-13.

TOP PROSPECT: You can never have enough power arms, and the Angels have one in 23-year-old Jairo Diaz. With a fastball that touches 100 mph, Diaz struck out 85 in 64 2/3 innings split between Class A Inland Empire and Double-A Arkansas. He got a chance to pitch in the big leagues in September, and struck out eight in 5 2/3 innings after being added to the 40-man roster.

PLAYER NOTES:

--OF Brennan Boesch, designated for assignment by the Angels on Oct. 7, was outrighted to Triple-A Salt Lake three days later. Boesch, 29, appeared in 27 games with the Angels, hitting .187/.203/.293 with two homers and seven RBIs. He would have been eligible for arbitration this winter.

--C John Buck, designated for assignment by the Angels on Oct. 7, refused an outright assignment to the minors and became a free agent. Buck, 34, played for the Seattle Mariners and the Angels this year, his sixth and seventh major league teams. He hit a combined .225/.289/.281 with one homer and six RBIs in 32 games. Buck went 1-for-5 in five games for Los Angeles.