Analyzing Los Angeles Angels Hitters For 2020

Jonathan Metzelaar examines the Angels lineup for 2020.

The Los Angeles Angels entered the offseason with the goal of building around two of the most exciting players in baseball: Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani. They certainly got off to a good start, locking down the biggest free agent bat available in Anthony Rendon. However, past signings continue to bog down their payroll flexibility, as Albert Pujols and Justin Upton will make a combined $50 million this season. Though those contracts make another offensive addition unlikely, the Angels will enter 2020 with a formidable middle-of-the-order. If their aging veterans manage to rebound, and top prospect Jo Adell breaks out, they have a chance to be a very formidable lineup this year.

(Last Updated: January 20, 2020)

 

Roster Changes

 

 

Hitter Previews

 

Catchers

 

Jason Castro (C | Batting 8th)

2019 (275 PA): 39 R, 13 HR, 30 RBI, 0 SB, .232 AVG/.332 OBP/.435 SLG | C #29 (per ESPN Player Rater)

2020 Early Mock ADP: Undrafted

 

Mitch Garver‘s offensive breakout last year completely overshadowed the fact that his backup in Minnesota, Jason Castro, was experiencing a renaissance of his own. After posting fairly mediocre quality-of-contact numbers for most of his career, Castro flashed a 17% barrel rate last year. This was the eighth-highest barrel rate in baseball, sandwiching Castro between Mike Trout and Yordan Alvarez on the leaderboards. Pairing this newfound power with his historically good line drive rates, Castro set career-highs in xBA and xSLG. His wOBA (.328) was also well below his xwOBA (.364), meaning despite the above-average offensive output for a backup catcher, he likely underperformed. The only drawback to Castro’s newfound power was the toll it took on his contact ability, as his 65% contact rate and 15.6% swinging strike rate from last year were career-worsts and well below the league average. Still, if Castro can retain these power gains, the catcher job is all his now that he’s in Anaheim. He could prove to be a very valuable catching option that will be available for practically nothing in drafts this year.

 

Strengths: HR, R

Weaknesses: AVG, OBP, Points

 

Best-Case Scenario

 

Castro retains the huge quality-of-contact improvements he made in 2019 while racking up 500 plate appearances, allowing him to approach 30 homers with a batting average around .240.

 

Worst-Case Scenario

 

The batted ball improvements he made last year don’t stick, and he returns to being a guy with a league-average barrel rate and poor contact skills, making his .220 average and mid-teens power unpalatable for those in shallow leagues.

 

2020 Projection (500 PA): 65, 25 HR, 60 RBI, 0 SB, .230 AVG/ .330 OBP/. 485 SLG

 

Max Stassi (C | Batting N/A)

2019 (147 PA): 7 R, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 0 SB, .136 AVG/.211 OBP/.167 SLG | Unranked (per ESPN Player Rater)

2020 Early Mock ADP: Undrafted

 

Max Stassi is primarily known for his defensive prowess and framing ability, not his bat. He served mostly as a backup catcher in 2019, and will likely return to that role in 2020 after the team signed Jason Castro this offseason and Kevan Smith elected free agency. He’s a poor hitter at best and completely unrosterable at worst.

 

Strengths: N/A

Weaknesses: AVG, RBI, R, SB, Points

 

Best-Case Scenario

 

Stassi remains in line to be the team’s primary catcher and provides mid-teens power with a poor batting average over the course of the season.

 

Worst-Case Scenario

 

Stassi’s hitting woes continue, and the Angels release him.

 

2020 Projection (150 PA): 12 R, 3 HR, 15 RBI, 0 SB, .200 AVG/.270 OBP/.320 SLG.

 

Infielders

 

Anthony Rendon (3B | Batting 4th)

2019 (646 PA): 117 R, 34 HR, 126 RBI, 5 SB, .319 AVG/.412 OBP/.598 SLG | 3B #2 (per ESPN Player Rater)

2020 Early Mock ADP: 20.7

 

Anthony Rendon seems to get a little better every single year. In 2019, Rendon set career highs in AVG (.319), wOBA (.413), barrel rate (12%), hard-hit rate (46.6%), and contact rate (88.3%). It’s hard to fathom how he could improve upon those numbers, but he’ll be just 29 years old heading into the 2020 season, and there’s a chance we’ve yet to see his true ceiling. Hitting behind Mike Trout should provide a nice boost for Rendon this year, though that benefit may be mitigated by the fact that he’ll be moving from Nationals Park, one of the better offensive ballparks in baseball, to Angels Stadium, which consistently rates as neutral to hitters. Still, Rendon is the rare hitter who pairs elite plate discipline with top-tier contact ability and blistering hard contact, making him an incredibly safe pick in the first couple of rounds of fantasy drafts. If he’s able to avoid the minor injuries that have kept him from appearing in more than 150 games the past three years, he very well could be in line for his best season yet.

 

Strengths: PA/AB, AVG, OBP, R, HR, RBI, Points

Weaknesses: N/A

 

Best-Case Scenario

 

Rendon appears in over 150 games for the first time since 2016 and has his best overall season yet, hitting close to 40 home runs with a .300 average and well over 100 RBI and 100 runs.

 

Worst-Case Scenario

 

Rendon gets off to a slow start while getting accustomed to a new league and home ballpark. He fails to appear in over 150 games for the fourth straight season due to injury, and fails to justify being chosen as a top 20-30 pick in drafts.

 

2020 Projection (620 PA): 100 R, 35 HR, 115 RBI, 5 SB, .305 AVG/.405 OBP/.590 SLG

 

Andrelton Simmons (SS | Batting 9th)

2019 (424 PA): 47 R, 7 HR, 40 RBI, 10 SB, .264 AVG/.309 OBP/.364 SLG | SS #42 (per ESPN Player Rater)

2020 Early Mock ADP: 297

 

A Grade 3 ankle sprain and a foot injury robbed Andrelton Simmons of a significant amount of at-bats in 2019, and he never seemed to find his groove offensively. Simmons is elite at making contact and avoiding strikeouts, as he’s posted a career 5.7% swinging-strike rate and 8.9% strikeout rate. This makes him a safe bet for a high batting average, though where his power and speed settle will determine how much of a fantasy asset he is. His defensive prowess will keep him in the lineup, and if the stars align, he could hit .290 with 15 homers and 15 stolen bases. But that’s hardly something owners should depend on.

 

Strengths: PA/AB, AVG, SB, Points

Weaknesses: HR, RBI

 

Best-Case Scenario

 

Simmons stays healthy, elevates the ball more, and gets some batted-ball luck on the way to a 15/15 season with a .290 average.

 

Worst-Case Scenario

 

Simmons continues his ground-ball-heavy ways, resulting in a suppressed BABIP and home run totals, and making him unrosterable in shallow leagues.

 

2020 Projection: 75 R, 10 HR, 60 RBI, 10 SB, .280 AVG/.320 OBP/.385 SLG.

 

Matt Thaiss (3B | Batting N/A)

2019 (164 PA): 17 R, 8 HR, 23 RBI, 0 SB, .211 AVG/.293 OBP/.422 SLG | 3B #89 (per ESPN Player Rater)

2020 Early Mock ADP: 522

 

Stepping in to fill the void left at third base by Tommy La Stella, Matt Thaiss flashed some decent power in 2019. The elite plate discipline he was known for in the minors carried over as well, as he posted a 10.4% walk rate. However, when he did swing, he struggled to make contact, and with Rendon now in the fold, there likely won’t be many opportunities for Thaiss to improve in the area.

 

Strengths: HR, OBP

Weaknesses: PA/AB, AVG, Points

 

Best-Case Scenario

 

An injury opens up playing time for Thaiss, and he becomes an asset in OBP leagues.

 

Worst-Case Scenario

 

Thaiss returns to the minors to begin the year or serves primarily as one of the team’s backup infielders.

 

2020 Projection (150 PA): 15 R, 6 HR, 15 RBI, 0 SB, .245 AVG/ .345 OBP/ .440 SLG

 

David Fletcher (2B/3B | Batting 2nd)

2019 (653 PA): 83 R, 6 HR, 49 RBI, 8 SB, .290 AVG/.350 OBP/.384 SLG | #22 2B (per ESPN Player Rater)

2020 Early Mock ADP: 369.5

 

David Fletcher‘s 653 plate appearances led the team in 2019, and the sheer amount of at-bats he took makes the fact that he finished the year with a .290 average all the more impressive. Fletcher, like many hitters in the Angels lineup, is incredibly adept at not striking out, as he posted just a 9.8% strikeout rate last season. This, paired with an excellent line-drive rate, gives him a safe floor in batting average, and as long as he hits toward the top of the lineup, he should score plenty of runs. The problem lies in the fact that he doesn’t have any other standout tools, so Fletcher is probably only worth a look if you need to offset a poor batting average from someone else on your roster. With the addition of Anthony Rendon, he also may lose out on at-bats to Tommy La Stella at second base.

 

Strengths: AVG, R, Points

Weaknesses: HR, RBI 

Best-Case Scenario

 

Fletcher is the Angels’ leadoff hitter, putting him in line to score upward of 90 runs while posting a .290 average and chipping in a handful of homers and steals.

 

Worst-Case Scenario

 

The BABIP gods abandon him, and his batting average drops, costly him regular playing time and making him not worth rostering in any format.

 

2020 Projection (450 PA): 65 R, 6 HR, 55 RBI, 8 SB, .285 AVG/ .340 OBP/ .380 SLG

 

Tommy La Stella (1B/2B/2B, Batting 1st)

2019 (321 PA): 49 R, 16 HR, 44 RBI, 0 SB, .295 AVG/.346 OBP/.486 SLG | #43 3B (per ESPN Player Rater)

2020 Early Mock ADP: 333.5

 

La Stella has historically always posted excellent contact rates throughout his career, but in 2019 he paired that elite batted-ball ability with an uptick in hard contact and launch angle to unlock a bit of power too. Unfortunately, a fractured tibia cost La Stella a large chunk of the season. He’s presumably healthy heading in 2020. However, with the signing of Anthony Rendon, it’s unclear where he slots on the team’s depth chart. In all likelihood, he’ll form a dual platoon with David Fletcher at second base and Albert Pujols at first base. If he can piece together regular at-bats, and retain the power gains he showed last season while continuing to put the ball in play at an elite level, he could be an excellent table-setter for the Angels and a steal in fantasy drafts in 2020.

 

Strengths: AVG, R, RBI, Points

Weaknesses: SB

Best-Case Scenario

 

La Stella locks down the starting second base job and retains his newfound power, posting an excellent batting average and counting stats while hitting roughly 20 homers.

 

Worst-Case Scenario

 

The power gains from 2019 were a fluke, and La Stella turns back into a barely rosterable infielder who won’t help much outside batting average.

 

2020 Projection (300 PA): 50 R, 8 HR, 40 RBI, 2 SB, .280 AVG/ .330 OBP/ .420 SLG 

 

Albert Pujols (1B | Batting 7th)

2019 (545 PA): 55 R, 23 HR, 93 RBI, 3 SB, .244 AVG/.305 OBP/.430 SLG | #27 1B (per ESPN Player Rater)

2020 Early Mock ADP: Undrafted

 

It’s hard to believe that Pujols was able to rack up 93 RBI in 545 plate appearances in 2019 despite hitting just .244 in an anemic Los Angeles lineup. It just goes to show how hitting behind Trout and Ohtani can work wonders for a guy’s fantasy output. Despite being 39 years old, Pujols is still incredibly gifted at putting the ball in play, as he posted just a 12.5% strikeout rate last year. Unfortunately, the fact that his ankles are held together by chewing gum and duct tape means that he can’t take advantage of all those batted balls, as seen by the fact that his BABIP hasn’t eclipsed .265 in seven years. Considering how shallow first base is this year, Pujols might have some value in deep leagues. But for the most part you should probably stay away.

 

Strengths: PA/AB, RBI, Points

Weaknesses: AVG, OBP, R

 

Best-Case Scenario

 

Pujols stays healthy and racks up over 100 RBI with 25 home runs and a .250 average.

 

Worst-Case Scenario

 

Injury and/or old age crater Pujols’ ability to stay on the field, and he’s not fantasy relevant in any format.

 

2020 Projection (300 PA): 35 R, 11 HR, 42 RBI, 1 SB, .240 AVG/.290 OBP/.410 SLG

 

Outfielders

 

Mike Trout (OF | Batting 2nd)

2019 (600 PA): 110 R, 45 HR, 104 RBI, 11 SB, .291 AVG/.438 OBP/.645 SLG | OF #4 (per ESPN Player Rater)

2020 Early Mock ADP: 1.6

 

Though some will argue Christian Yelich and Ronald Acuna Jr. had better 2019 seasons than Trout, few can dispute that Trout’s track record of elite offensive production makes him the safest player to own in fantasy baseball. Trout set a new career high in home runs in 2019, swatting 45 in just 134 games. He only stole 11 bases, his lowest total since 2015, but that could be attributed to hip and foot issues that he battled all year, the latter of which cost him the final few weeks of the season. If there’s one weakness in Trout’s game, it may be durability: He’s now missed at least 20 games in three straight seasons. Still, he’s so good that he can outproduce most players in the league even when he misses time. Draft him No. 1 overall with confidence.

 

Strengths: PA/AB, AVG, OBP, R, HR, RBI, SB, Points

Weaknesses: N/A

 

Best-Case Scenario

 

Trout stays healthy for the entire season, eclipsing 50 homers, 20 stolen bases, and winning the AL batting title.

 

Worst-Case Scenario

 

Trout’s nagging lower body injuries return, and he misses time for the fourth consecutive season.

 

2020 Projection: 115 R, 42 HR, 110 RBI, 20 SB, .300 AVG/ .435 OBP/ .630 SLG

 

Justin Upton (OF | Batting 5th)

2019 (256 PA): 34 R, 12 HR, 40 RBI, 1 SB, .215 AVG/.309 OBP/.416 SLG | OF #154 (per ESPN Player Rater)

2020 Early Mock ADP: 193.5 

 

A broken toe cost Upton over three months of playing time to start the year, and patellar tendinitis in his right knee resulted in his being shut down in mid-September. Prior to 2019, Upton was known as a hitter who could contribute in every standard fantasy category, with the occasional exception of batting average. Whether he can return to being a solid all-around contributor in 2020 remains to be seen, but he could return plenty of value in drafts this year if his injury-plagued 2019 dampens his stock enough.

 

Strengths: PA/AB, OBP, R, HR, RBI

Weaknesses: AVG

 

Best-Case Scenario

 

Upton’s lower-body injuries are behind him, and he returns to being a hitter who can provide good counting stats, above-average power, some speed, and a serviceable batting average.

 

Worst-Case Scenario

 

Upton’s 2019 campaign was the beginning of his decline, and he fails to both stay healthy and make much of an impact when he’s on the field.

 

2020 Projection (580 PA): 75 R, 28 HR, 85 RBI, 7 SB, .255 AVG/ .340 OBP/ .460 SLG

 

Brian Goodwin (OF | Batting 6th)

2019 (458 PA): 65 R, 17 HR, 47 RBI, 7 SB, .262 AVG/.326 OBP/.470 SLG | OF #76 (per ESPN Player Rater)

2020 Early Mock ADP: Undrafted

 

Brian Goodwin put together a solid offensive season for the Angels in 2019, posting perhaps the quietest 109 wRC+ in the league. With Kole Calhoun‘s option having been declined, Goodwin is likely in line for full-time at-bats in 2020, barring any major free-agent signings by the Angels. The average may come down a bit, but nothing else about his performance last year seems particularly flukey, and if things break right, he could produce 20+ homers and mid-teens stolen bases with solid counting stats, depending on where he ends up slotting into the lineup.

 

Strengths: PA/AB, R, SB

Weaknesses: RBI

 

Best-Case Scenario

 

Goodwin secures a full-time role in the Angels outfield and produces at an above-average level in all five standard fantasy categories.

 

Worst-Case Scenario

 

Goodwin slides back into a part-time role due to a big free-agent signing and doesn’t garner enough at-bats to be worth owning in anything shallower than a 16-team league.

 

2020 Projection (450 PA): 50 R, 14 HR, 55 RBI, 8 SB, .255 AVG/ .320 OBP/ .461 SLG

 

Jo Adell (OF | Batting N/A)

2019 minors (341 PA): 54 R, 10 HR, 36 RBI, 7 SB, .289 AVG/.359 OBP/.475 SLG 

2020 Early Mock ADP: 164.5

 

Jo Adell is the fifth-best prospect in baseball according to MLB Pipeline’s most recent prospect rankings, and many are speculating that Adell could be recalled within the first few months of the season if he gets off to a hot enough start in the minors. The early returns suggest he could use a bit more seasoning at Triple-A, but Adell has been pegged as a very toolsy player with 70-grade power who could easily make the strides he needs to in short order and push for a starting role in the big leagues.

 

Strengths: PA/AB, R, HR

Weaknesses: AVG

 

Best-Case Scenario

 

Adell gets off to a hot start in Triple-A, is recalled after the Super Two cutoff, and plays out the rest of the year as the Angels’ right fielder, contributing in all five standard fantasy categories.

 

Worst-Case Scenario

 

Adell struggles out of the gate in the minors, and the Angels elect not to promote him until later in the summer, extinguishing any hope of his making a fantasy impact.

 

2020 Projection (300 PA): 35 R, 12 HR, 35 RBI, 8 SB, .260 AVG/ .330 OBP/ .410 SLG

 

Designated Hitters

 

Shohei Ohtani (DH | Batting 4th)

2019 (425 PA): 51 R, 18 HR, 62 RBI, 12 SB, .286 AVG/.343 OBP/.505 SLG | DH# 18 (per ESPN Player Rater)

2020 Early Mock ADP: 54

 

Ohtani missed the first few weeks of the season due to his recovery from Tommy John surgery, and the last few weeks of the season due to knee surgery. However, when he was on the field he was an offensive force and an above-average contributor across the board. With Ohtani returning to the mound again in 2020, you have to wonder how conservative the Angels will be with his usage as a hitter. In all likelihood he will be benched about twice a week, which severely hinders his upside as a hitter. But if your league allows you to deploy him as a pitcher as well, the fact that his at-bats will be limited is likely a pill you’re more than happy to swallow.

 

Strengths: AVG, OBP, HR, SB, Points

Weaknesses: PA/AB

 

Best-Case Scenario

 

He’s able to accumulate close to 500 plate appearances as the Angels’ designated hitter, contributing in all five standard fantasy categories and giving you elite pitching performances in leagues where he’s a two-way player.

 

Worst-Case Scenario

 

The Angels handle Ohtani very conservatively, benching him every game that he pitches and at least once a week to allow him to get adequate rest. As a result, his total number of plate appearances takes a big hit, and he becomes difficult to justify spending a high pick on in weekly formats and leagues where he only qualifies as a hitter.

 

2020 Projection (450 PA): 55 R, 20 HR, 65 RBI, 12 SB, .280/.350/.530

 

Playing Time Battles

 

The big question with the Angels’ lineup is the mystery surrounding the deployment of Tommy La Stella and David Fletcher. In all likelihood, they’ll share time at second base, with La Stella picking up additional at-bats at first base and third base when Rendon and Pujols need a breather. The Los Angeles outfield should be comprised of Upton, Trout, and Goodwin from left to right, with Jo Adell taking over for Goodwin as soon as he proves he’s ready.

 

Projected Lineup

 

 

Conclusion

 

The Angels have three of the best hitters in the sport in Trout, Rendon, and Ohtani. Unfortunately, the rest of their lineup is mostly made up of league-average complementary players and aging veterans with durability issues. Adell could inject some life into the team’s offense after his promotion, and Upton could have another above-average season left in the tank. But despite the strength of the heart of their order, things are going to have to break right for the Angels to be a true top-tier offense in 2020.

Photo by John Cordes/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)

Jonathan Metzelaar

Jonathan Metzelaar is a writer and content manager with Pitcher List, and co-host of the On the Barrel podcast. He enjoys long walks on the beach, quiet dinners by candlelight, and essentially any other activity that will distract him from the perpetual torture of being a New York Mets fan. He's written for Fangraphs Community Research and created Youtube videos about fantasy baseball under the moniker "Jonny Baseball."

  • Avatar T says:

    Just an FYI you’re sometimes misusing “N/A” (not applicable), like when you say “Max Stassi Strengths: N/A”. It should be “None” instead.

  • Avatar Mock says:

    Kevan Smith isn’t even on the roster?

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