Angels face 3 big questions heading into Spring Training
Hamilton's health, pitching rotation left unanswered before camp
By Alden Gonzalez
ANAHEIM -- This past offseason was one of the quietest the Angels have had in recent memory, and there's a good reason for that: When you win 98 games, there isn't a whole lot of maintenance required.
But new seasons bring new questions, and the Angels must answer several of them if they want to repeat as American League West champions and advance further in the postseason.
Below, as the sixth installment to our seven-part preview series, are the three biggest.
1. What will Josh Hamilton provide?
The Angels are at a point where they basically consider anything Hamilton gives them a bonus. Can you blame them? He batted .250 with 21 homers and 79 RBIs in 2013, batted .263 with 10 homers in 89 games in 2014 and underwent surgery in his right AC joint on Feb. 4, a procedure that will keep him out six to eight weeks. Hamilton's age 34 season is the third of a five-year, $125 million contract. Any expectation that he'll suddenly morph into the five-time All-Star of his Texas days seems injudicious. But if Hamilton somehow comes close to that, he can take the Angels to new heights.
2. How good will the rotation be?
There's a lot potential here, but just as much uncertainty. It starts with Garrett Richards, because the Angels' success could hinge largely on whether the 26-year-old right-hander returns to his Cy Young-caliber form of 2014, before left knee surgery. But there's also C.J. Wilson, who's looking to rebound from a down year. There's Matt Shoemaker, who aims to prove his upstart rookie season was no fluke. There's Andrew Heaney and Nick Tropeano, two young arms still trying to find their footing. And there's Jered Weaver, who hopes of reaching a new level at age 32.
3. Will Mike Trout finally walk on water?
That's the next step, isn't it? Trout's first three full seasons have consisted of a unanimous American League Rookie of the Year Award, a unanimous Most Valuable Player Award, three All-Star Game appearances, three Silver Sluggers, a .311/.403/.561 slash line and a Major League-leading Wins Above Replacement score of 28.4, per FanGraphs. All eyes will be on Trout once again as he enters his age-23 season, and it'll be fascinating to see what type of season he provides. Will he cut down on his strikeouts, steal more bases and do it all while maintaining his power numbers? Don't put it past him.