Los Angeles Angels: Predicting the 2018 Starting Lineup
The Los Angeles Angels finished 80-82 last season, good for second in the American League West. They finished third in the Wild Card race as well and finished just under .500 without a full season from Mike Trout. They finished in the bottom half of the leaderboard in nearly offensive category. Now, with the additions of Ian Kinsler, Zack Cozart, Shohei Ohtani, and full seasons from their MVP and Justin Upton, the Angels should be in business.
1. Andrelton Simmons, SS
The Los Angeles Angels lack a “true” leadoff guy at the top of the order. That’s not to say that most of their guys aren’t capable, though. Mike Scioscia could experiment with pretty much anybody at the leadoff spot but I expect Andrelton Simmons to start their out of the gate. Simmons was third on the team with 19 stolen bases and second best in average at .278. Though he’s spent very little time leading off, just 76 games, Simmons identifies as a leadoff hitter more than anyone else on the team. He’s coming off the best season of his career and should have every opportunity to succeed again batting at the top of the order.
2. Mike Trout, CF
By far the least surprising name on this list is Mike Trout in the two-hole. It’d be pointless to give an introduction for the game’s best player. Trout missed a large chunk of the season with a thumb injury. Crazy enough, he still managed to hit 33 homers, knock in 72 runs and swipe 22 bags in just 114 games. There aren’t many guys that can earn MVP votes after missing over 50 games. Trout did it and he’ll look to do it again, minus the injury part, in 2018.
3. Justin Upton, LF
The Angels will be looking forward to a full season from Justin Upton in 2018. In 27 games after being traded to Anaheim, Upton hit .245 with seven homers and 15 RBI. He tailed off a bit after joining the Angels but overall it was another great year for Upton. He totaled 35 homers, 109 RBI, 100 runs scored and batted .273 in his time with the Detroit Tigers and Los Angeles Angels. Upton recently signed a five-year deal with the team and should be a huge piece of the Angels offense while batting in the three spot.
4. Albert Pujols, DH
Pujols will enter his 18th season, his eighth as the Angels cleanup hitter. The future Hall of Famer has been steadily declining the past few seasons. Nonetheless, he’s still been a productive hitter in the middle of the lineup. Last season he hit 23 homers, knocked in 101 runs and batted .241. While his average was the lowest mark of his career, his 100 RBI was on par with his recent production. Pujols is no longer the .300 hitter he once was but he should get plenty of opportunities to knock in runs from the cleanup spot.
5. Ian Kinsler, 2B
The Angels secured their Opening Day second baseman by signing Ian Kinsler. After one of the best seasons of his career in 2016, Kinsler showed his age a bit last season. In his age 35 season, Kinsler batted .236 with 22 homers, 52 RBI, and 14 stolen bases. His .236 mark was by far the lowest of his career. His 22 long balls is an encouraging sign though, as the vet will provide some pop from the fifth spot.
6. Zack Cozart, 3B
Another offseason acquisition, Cozart came over from the Reds to take over third base duties. He was limited to 122 games last season but still, put up the best numbers of his career. He batted .297 over the 122 games with career-high 80 runs scored, 63 RBI and 24 homers. The Los Angeles Angels would seriously benefit from a full season from Cozart, who will likely bat sixth.
7. Kole Calhoun, RF
Calhoun was a solid run producer for the Angels for the third straight season. He knocked in 71 runs and homered 19 times in 2017. Calhoun has managed to stay on the field as well, appearing in at least 155 games each of the last three seasons. Year in and year out, Calhoun has been a reliable force in the outfield and in the lineup. He’s capable of performing anywhere in the lineup but I expect him to hit out of the seven spot.
8. CJ Cron, 1B
Cron has yet to become an everyday player for the Angels. He’s yet to total more than 116 games in a season. This season, his playing time will likely be affected by how the Angels use Ohtani. If they do let Ohtani hit, Cron could be part of some type of platoon with the Japanese star. Until that decision is made, Cron is set to start the season as the everyday first baseman. He’s hit 16 homers in each of the last three seasons and should provide some power at the bottom of the order.
9. Martin Maldonado, C
Rounding out the Angels lineup will be the starting catcher, Martin Maldonado. Maldonado earned a Gold Glove award for his performance behind the plate but didn’t have the best year at the plate. In 138 games, he batted just .221 with 14 homers and 38 RBI. His defense alone is enough to keep him in the lineup. However, the Angels hope he can be a little more productive at the plate in 2018.
The biggest storyline surrounding the Los Angeles Angels offense is how they will use Shohei Ohtani. Ohtani has made it clear that he wants to hit, and the Angels haven’t confirmed whether they will let him. Regardless, the Angels have a solid lineup entering 2018 and should be competitors in the American League West.