What will Josh Hamilton realistically be able to do?
News of Hamilton having to undergo AC joint surgery on his right shoulder this past week was hardly what the Angels had in mind for their offseason plans. Hamilton, entering the third year of his five-year megadeal with the Halos, will be sidelined at least 6-8 weeks, effectively ruining his Spring Training chances and delaying his season debut. After a largely 'lost' season in 2014 (save for a few weeks of hot hitting, he finished .263/.331/.414 with 10 home runs in just 89 games), the Angels have yet to really reap the benefits of the free agent contract they handed him in 2012. When he returns, it's anyone's guess at this point whether he'll be the productive offensive weapon the Angels had hoped he'd be, so this is a lingering issue that will be worth paying attention to in 2015.
Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY SportsMark L. Baer
Who steps in for Howie?
In trading Howie Kendrick to the Dodgers, the Angels lost one of their most productive hitters. In 2014, Kendrick hit .293/.347/.397 while anchoring second base with solid defense and an overall presence that made him a fan favorite. Heading into 2015, second base is a key position of focus: will new Cuban signing Roberto Baldoquin be able to take over, or will he need some seasoning in the minors before assuming the job? Will Grant Green ever make good on his prospect promise? How the Angels solve the 2B puzzle before Opening Day will be interesting to see.
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY SportsKelley L Cox
When will Garrett Richards be back?
Richards' flashy Cy Young-worthy season was derailed in August with a grisly patellar tendon tear. Prior to his season's premature end, he was the talk of the league due to his overpowering repertoire of pitches and maturity. Recent reports have the Angels optimistically hoping for him to be available by Opening Day, but it remains to be seen if that's possible - he just began running on the knee recently in his rehab efforts. It seems logical to expect him to return to being a dominant arm in 2015, but it's unclear at this juncture just WHEN that may be.
Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY SportsMark L. Baer
What's next for Trout?
Mike Trout cashed in on his greatness in 2014, winning the American Leagues MVP award after slashing .287/.377/.561 with 36 home runs, 111 RBIs and a league-leading 115 runs scored. He also posted a WAR of 7.9, which was actually slightly lower from his previous two seasons. Despite his continued success, Trout led the league in strikeouts with 184 and his stolen base total shrunk from 33 in 2013 to 16 in 2014 (after totaling 49 in 2012), prompting some to question certain aspects of his evolving game. At this stage, everybody knows he's a top-tier talent, so the question of "what's next?" keeps being brought up. He'll likely post another MVP-caliber season on offense, but those two 'problem' areas of his game (as pointed out by some, anyway) will be areas of focus.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY SportsKyle Terada
Will Shoemaker continue being lights-out?
A big reason the Angels wound up running away with the A.L. West after Garrett Richards went down was the emergence of Matt Shoemaker. Called on in a pinch due to various rotation injuries, Shoemaker wound up 16-4 on the season with a 3.04 ERA, a FIP of 3.26 and 124 strikeouts in 136 IP. He bailed out the Halos' staff down the stretch, preserving some of the bullpen's vital arms due to his ability to pitch late into games. Heading into 2015, his workload will be one to watch. While 2014 was his rookie year, Shoemaker is 28 and logged a lot of minor league innings prior to sticking with the Halos last season. Will 2015 cement him as one of the A.L.'s premier arms, or will he fall back to earth a bit?
Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY SportRobert Hanashiro
Bullpen efficiency questions
Trading away Kevin Jepsen should affect the makeup of the back end of the Angels' bullpen, one of the strongest elements of the team's second-half run in 2014. Huston Street was absolutely brilliant after coming over from San Diego, picking up 17 saves in 28 appearances and generally appearing unbeatable most times out on the mound. It might be hard for Street, 31, to be as dominant in 2015, but if he is - and if Joe Smith is once again a formidable eighth inning option for Mike Scioscia, the bullpen may wind up being just fine.
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY SportsBrad Rempel
Can they hold off their A.L. West foes?
At 98-64, the 2014 Halos were the class of the American League, blowing past their A.L. West competition. Heading into the new year, though, presents some challenges: the Seattle Mariners revamped their offense to go along with a deadly pitching staff, the Houston Astros added veteran presence to their talented young core, the Texas Rangers won't presumably have 50% of their roster on the D.L. all year and the Oakland A's reinvented themselves yet again. The West in 2014 was uneven, but the division race could be much closer in 2015...unless, of course, the Angels find that magic once again.