Rough 2016 allows valuable LA Angels to emerge

After falling one game short of a postseason spot in 2015, the 2016 season was one the LA Angels would like to forget. Their roster was littered with injuries to some of their best players, and they didn’t have the depth to replace them.

In short, nearly everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong, leading to the LA Angels finishing fourth in the division with 74 wins. However, all of the dysfunction gave numerous players the opportunity prove that they can be valuable contributors going forward, and a few did just that.

Because catcher Geovany Soto dealt with injuries all year long, Jett Bandy was forced to step up in his absence, and he filled in rather nicely. In 30 games from May through July, the 26-year-old rookie hit .281 with a .762 OPS. However, his offensive production fell off considerably following a scorching July, though that isn’t too surprising, as many catchers see their offensive numbers decline as the season wears on, especially rookies who aren’t used to catching as many innings as Bandy did.

While his offense was certainly impressive, where Bandy really shined was behind the plate. He compiled three Defensive Runs Saved while throwing out 40% of attempted base stealers, sixth-best in baseball.

With their 31st round pick in the 2011 draft, the Angels may have finally found the catcher they have longed for, one who is a threat both at the plate and behind it.

The Angels also found a couple of relievers who figure to factor into the team’s future plans.

Deolis Guerra was a Rule-5 Draft pick prior to the 2016 season and ended up becoming one of the Angels’ more reliable relievers. In 53 1/3 innings, he posted a 3.21 ERA and struck out 36 batters. His most impressive feat was his superb 1.18 BB/9, walking just seven batters all season.

Even more important than Guerra’s emergence was that of Cam Bedrosian. Bedrosian was the Angels’ first-round pick in 2010 draft and in limited Major League action prior to 2016, he struggled mightily. From 2014-2015, Bedrosian posted an ERA near six and failed to find a permanent place in the Angels’ bullpen.

Last season, however, Bedrosian made a remarkable turnaround. In 2016, he completely abandoned his ineffective changeup, mixed his pitches more effectively, and kept his walks in check, leading to a dazzling 1.12 ERA, which ranked second among 176 relievers with at least 40 innings pitched. In 40 1/3 innings, Bedrosian struck out 51 batters, or 31.5% of the batters he faced, which was the 20th-best strikeout rate among those same 176 relievers.

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With Huston Street on the mend and Joe Smith traded, Bedrosian took over the closer role in August of last season. Unfortunately, he was only able to notch one save before succumbing to season-ending surgery. However, he showed enough promise in 2016 to lead Eppler to inform Street that “the closer job is open,” leaving the door open for Bedrosian to seize the role.

Regardless of his role, Bedrosian proved that he is no first-round bust and is ready to become a major part of the Angels’ bullpen.

While Bandy, Bedrosian, and Guerra were the most notable, there were even more players who exceeded expectations last season.

Ricky Nolasco, who was acquired at the Trade Deadline, along with Alex Meyer, in exchange for lefty Hector Santiago, posted a 3.21 ERA in 11 starts with the team, and is still under team control through the end of the 2017 season. Originally, acquiring Nolasco was merely seen as a way to obtain the player the Angels really wanted, Meyer, but if last season was any indication, Nolasco should be able to provide quality, consistent innings in the middle of the rotation next season.

2009 Rookie of the Year Andrew Bailey was claimed off waivers late in the season and allowed just three runs in 11 1/3 innings and recorded six saves, prompting the Angels to sign him to a one-year pact earlier this month. After a splendid start to his career, Bailey was slowed down by injuries, but in September, he showed signs that he may be able to become a useful reliever in the Angels’ bullpen.

Carlos Perez didn’t hit much at all this year, but his defensive prowess led him to being named a finalist for the Gold Glove Award, though he didn’t win. And if he can improve his offense, he could form a solid catching duo with Bandy.

2016 went about as bad as it could have for the Angels, but because of the disarray, the Angels were able to find a few players who should help supplement their young, talented core of position players and starting pitchers, and some could even become staples of the club very soon.

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