Angels mailbag: Thinking about next year

Hello, Angels fans. Welcome to another edition of the mailbag. Your favorite team is 46-49, which translates to a 78-win pace for a full season. That's not good, but the New York Yankees are currently in American League playoff position, and they are on pace to win 85 games. That's not good either. It's a weird year.

The Angels are off today. They then host the Washington Nationals for two games and the Boston Red Sox for three. Those teams are talented, and they could derail what wild-card hope the Angels have left.


Let's answer some questions about the team. As always, please submit queries to my email address or Twitter account, which are both listed below.

Assuming Ricky Nolasco doesn't turn in an otherworldly second half and vest his option, the Angels have about $87.6 million guaranteed to Albert Pujols, Mike Trout, Andrelton Simmons, Luis Valbuena and Kole Calhoun. Arbitration raises are notoriously difficult to project at this stage in the season. Between Garrett Richards, Matt Shoemaker, Martin Maldonado, Tyler Skaggs, Cam Bedrosian, JC Ramirez, C.J. Cron, Blake Parker and others who could qualify for arbitration, the Angels could be on the hook for anywhere between $20 and $30 million. That is an extremely rough calculation, and you should not hold me to it. So much depends on what happens the rest of the season. Also, the Angels could opt to non-tender some of those players.

So, let's say their committed payroll is something like $113 million to something like 12 players. Plug in another $4 million for seven minimum-salary players (rough guesses, both) and a recent guideline of $165 million in opening-day payroll, and you have $47 million to spend on six spots.

That's significant money, no doubt, but that team will also have significant holes: left field, third base, second base and the bullpen, for sure. First base, depending on how you view C.J. Cron and/or Jefry Marte. The state of the starting rotation will depend on the health of Richards, Shoemaker, Skaggs, Andrew Heaney and Nick Tropeano, none of whom are currently healthy.

That part is actually amazing. I can't imagine there have been many instances in major league history when a team's entire opening-day rotation was hurt nine months before. But that could conceivably happen.

So, there's your answer. Dream away!

Yes, that certainly could happen. That is, in fact, the hope. Tropeano should figure into the mix, too. Because of baseball's salary structure, all of those pitchers would be paid less than their market value, so they would present the Angels an opportunity to spend money elsewhere.

Yes, the club recognizes this. Yes, things have changed. The former director of amateur scouting was reassigned within the organization and replaced with a touted young evaluator. The club has resumed spending significant money in the international market. Those are pretty much the controllable aspects of prospect development, other than actual player development, which is of course tremendously difficult to evaluate as an outsider.

It takes time, a lot of time, to change the course of a farm system.

Jaime Barria, to whom the question refers, is a good pitching prospect. Scouts I've asked generally believe he'll fit in a major league rotation, probably at the back. Though he turns 21 tomorrow, he is holding his own in double-A, so he's probably not that far away from the big leagues.

That written, if he's the organization's top prospect, they are in a ton of trouble, because his upside is limited. But, notably, he's not the organization's top prospect, just the safest. Teenage outfielders Jahmai Jones and Jo Adell, selected high in the last two drafts, are both better prospects by general consensus.

I'm sure there are a few. Here's one: Many of the ushers they employ are delightful folks. I'm a big fan of David, who sometimes works the media dining room and sometimes mans the front gate after games. He offers smiles and fist bumps to anyone seeking them. Also, an elderly gentleman named Cliff. I love Cliff. He always calls me "guy." It's great.

I do not think Carlos Perez would bring back significant value in a trade. He is a 26-year-old catcher with roughly two years of service time accrued and a career .596 on-base-plus-slugging percentage. He is having a nice season in triple-A, but it's instructive to remember that the Angels opted to roster a 28-year-old waiver-wire journeyman, Juan Graterol, instead of him.

It is a bit puzzling. Valbuena had been quite good against right-handed pitchers in recent seasons, but he is hitting .190 with a .617 on-base-plus-slugging percentage against them as an Angel. That is poor, particularly, for a first baseman.


Asked about Valbuena last week, Angels manager Mike Scioscia said his issues stemmed from his typically good plate discipline becoming "a little spotty early in the season."

"He's just been expanding a little bit," Scioscia said. "I think when he gets back into his groove and he feels that his process is cleaner, you're going to see a guy that's really productive."

Valbuena, 31, is under contract for another year, so the Angels are not going to give up on him anytime soon. He has only batted 206 times in their uniform.

It's not so much where they stand relative to .500 that will govern their actions, but where they stand in the wild-card race. They're three games under .500 right now. Ordinarily, a club in that spot two weeks before the trade deadline would be a certain seller. But because most of the other teams in the American League are similarly mediocre, they still have a chance.

So, it seems prudent to say that it all depends on where they stand 10-14 days from now.

He wasn't getting much playing time in July. Also, he has since been designated for assignment.

He really struggled against right-handers and thus was no longer playing against them anymore. The Angels think Cliff Pennington is a better option against left-handers in the short term, and Pennington has the versatility to play third, shortstop and second. Along with Nick Franklin, there's really no reason to carry three second basemen. In the event of an Andrelton Simmons injury, I think Espinosa would hold some value because of his experience at shortstop, but evidently the Angels did not share that stance.

Also, Espinosa took his failure for his hometown team hard. I imagine there was some consideration to that. The Angels prize positivity.

Ben Revere has been a better hitter than Eric Young Jr. over their careers, and Revere is also hitting better than Young in recent weeks.

That concludes this week's Angels mailbag. Send in your questions to the below addresses at any time, and check back each Monday for answers.


Follow Pedro Moura on Twitter @pedromoura