The Starting Nine is a series that will identify the batting order for every American League team and project each player’s outlook for the upcoming 2018 fantasy baseball season. These articles will provide information on who to avoid, who to target, and when to draft them.
Los Angeles Angels
The Angels finished the 2017 season with an 80-82 record, narrowly missing out on the A.L Wild Card. Surprisingly, this was achieved despite Mike Trout hitting the disabled list for nearly 7 weeks due to a torn thumb ligament and the team ranking in the bottom third in every major offensive category (runs, hits, home runs, etc.). As a result, The Angels couldn’t provide much for fantasy purposes. With Trout now healthy and the signing of All-Stars Justin Upton and Ian Kinsler this offseason, The Halos will be able to produce greater offensive numbers and should be a much more fantasy friendly team in 2018.
1. Ian Kinsler
2. Mike Trout
3. Justin Upton
4. Albert Pujols
5. Kole Calhoun
6. Andrelton Simmons
7. Zack Cozart
8. Luis Valbuena
9. Martin Maldonado
Ian Kinsler (2B) – Kinsler was a great acquisition for a team that desperately needed a legitimate second baseman. He should be the club’s leadoff man and though he may not have stellar numbers in regard to batting average or RBIs (.236 and 52, respectively), he still provides enough in the runs, home runs, and stolen bases department; he finished 2017 with 90 runs, 22 home runs, and 14 stolen bags. With all the young talent emerging at the position, you won’t need to break the bank to acquire the veteran, however, Kinsler could wind up being a nice bargain.
Mike Trout (OF) – Trout is arguably the best player in baseball. He finished the 2017 season with a .306 average, 33 home runs, and 22 stolen bases in only 114 games. With the additions of Kinsler, Cozart, and Upton, Trout should be able to post incredible numbers yet again and may even be able to post career highs in some categories. It’s not often you can project a player to have a 30/30 season, but then again Trout is not your average player. He should be selected first overall, and should never drop below the 2nd pick in any format.
Justin Upton (OF) – Last season, Upton posted career highs in doubles (44), home runs (35), RBIs (109), SLG (.540) and OPS (.901), which is largely why the Angels signed him to a 5-year, $106 million contract. He brings big time power behind Trout and should be a top 20 outfielder selected somewhere in the 4th-5th round in standard leagues. Upton is more than capable of posting another 100 runs, 25+ home runs, and 100 RBIs with his new team.
Albert Pujols (DH) – Pujols, 37, has had a slew of nagging foot injuries the past couple of seasons; his most recent bout with plantar fascia resulted in surgery just last December. Although he is now healthy, his 2017 numbers are an indication that Pujols is indeed fading. He provided very little outside of the power stats (23 HRs, 101 RBIs), batted a mediocre .241, and had career lows in both slugging (.386) and OBP (.286). First base is loaded with young power hitters who offer more upside and higher floors than Pujols. However, his price tag is incredibly cheap and he can be had for next to nothing come draft day. If you’re looking for inexpensive power, Pujols can provide you with 20-25 HRs and 90-100 RBIs, but not much outside of that.
Kole Calhoun (OF) – Calhoun will not be the reason you win a fantasy title. He’s been a fringe breakout candidate the last few years and it seems like we’re always waiting for him to make the jump. Alas, he had yet another so-so season in 2017. He finished with 77 runs, 19 homers, 71 RBIs, and 5 stolen bases, along with a meager .244 average. One other stat of note was his .392 SLG. Calhoun has hit under 20 home runs in 3 out of the last 4 seasons and that’s while he sustained at least a .422 SLG percentage. Coming off a career low in that department, it will be hard to count on him to suddenly ramp up his power stats. Calhoun is a capable player, but don’t expect him to be a top 40 outfielder this year.
Andrelton Simmons (SS) – Simmons finished last season with 77 R, 14 HR, 69 RBI, 19 SB, and .278 average, which is the good news. The bad news is that these numbers are not indicative of what we’ve come to expect out of him. Although he was a highly touted prospect, Simmons has always been known more for his defensive capabilities than his hitting. Granted, he’s no slouch at the plate; Simmons held a respectable .331 OBP and had a career high 164 hits last year. But, he is batting 6th in the lineup- not exactly a prime spot for a player with his skill-set. Short Stop is a surprisingly deep position and it will be hard to justify picking Simmons over other names like Tim Beckham, Paul DeJong, or Didi Gregorious.
Zack Cozart (3B/SS) – Cozart had a tremendous season last year. The third baseman batted .297 and collected 80 runs, 24 home runs, and a .933 OPS, all career highs. However, he accrued most of these stats batting 2nd for the Reds. Now in Anaheim, he will be relegated to the bottom of the order and, as such, most likely will not be able to repeat or improve on these numbers. On a more positive note, Cozart will move from short stop to third base and should be able to stave off injury at a less demanding position. He will be a serviceable player with dual eligibility, but don’t get caught paying for last year’s stats.
Luis Valbeuna (1B) – With C.J Cron now fielding grounders in Tampa Bay, Valbuena becomes the default starting first baseman for The Angels, which could not be worse news. Last season, he swatted 22 home runs, knocked in 65 RBIs, but hit an embarrassing .199. Valbuena is an incredibly streaky hitter. When he is slumping, he can be absolutely maddening to own. Don’t let the power entice you. Let somebody else draft him, even in deep leagues.
Martin Maldonado (C) – Maldonado won a Gold Glove in 2017 and will be a solid real-life catcher. For fantasy purposes however, he will be a much less desirable option. He batted a horrendous .221 last season and finished with only 38 RBIs and a paltry .645 OPS. He will not provide much of an impact at the plate and is best left on the waiver wire even in 14 or 16 team leagues.