With each new baseball season comes an entirely new check list of predictions and assumptions. How a certain team or player will do, with the predictions coming in terms of "bold" and "not-so-bold." It really doesn't matter whether those assumptions are correct or incorrect, but just a fun analysis of what's been seen in the past and what's expected in the future.
Taylor Blake Ward of Scout.com gives you an inside look at his predictions for the Los Angeles Angels and the upcoming 2016 season. Some are common ideas, with others being wildly spontaneous and out of the blue of the Southern California sky.
1. Johnny Giavotella hits an inside-the-park home run.
This would be a prediction that falls in the "bold" category. Of course, Mike Trout will always be the most entertaining player in the Angels lineup, but it would be hard to argue Johnny Drama wasn't the second most entertaining last season. His hustle or bust mentality on the field is desirable among coaches and fans, and his five triples last season in 129 games is a nice mark to hold here. Though the norm says an inside-the-park home run happens every 160 home runs, Giavotella fits the mold of a guy who could miraculously have this occur.
2. Hector Santiago will have an ERA lower than 3.00 by the All-Star break, and see his walk rates decrease.
Quick statistical check, when has Hector Santiago had an ERA above 3.75 at season's end? Checking... oh, look at that, NEVER. Santiago is a defining picture of consistency. Last season was the first year Santiago saw his ERA below 3.00 at the All-Star break and it earned him a trip to the Mid-Summer Classic. Along with that is his walk rate, which has declined every year since coming into the league, with nearly a one walk drop from 2013. When you look, he used to walk over five per nine in his rookie year, and now he's down to three and a half. With his wit and hard work, you could see that number go down to the low three or even, into the two's range.
3. Jered Weaver will throw a complete game shut out at Angel Stadium.
Since 2010, the Angels have had 37 complete games, with 20 going as shut outs. Jered Weaver holds nine of those complete games and five of the shutouts, with the others being dispersed through eight other pitchers (Ervin Santana has nine complete games and three shut outs). Weaver actually has at least one complete game thrown in five of the last seven seasons with 2010 and 2013 being the exceptions. Even in his worst statistical season, Weaver was able to hold a 2.79 ERA at home nearly matching his career home ERA of 2.67. Though his stuff doesn't play out, he's still one of the most effective pitchers in throwing strikes and keeping his pitch count low, which turns to him having another complete game shut out sometime during the 2016 season.
4. Yunel Escobar will have a batting average above .290.
The argument of if RBI and runs scored and batting average matter anymore is a tired argument. Of course it matters what a guy hits. A battle with a pitcher is getting on base, and the simplest way is by getting a hit, so give it a break, .290 is a nice mark. In five of his nine years in the league, Escobar has hit .290 or better, though all but one of those seasons came in the National League, Escobar is a prime candidate to set the table for the Angels, and have collecting hits be the majority of the battle in reaching base for the Halos. Analytics can say on-base in more important, but hits and batting average only make that number rise.
5. Mike Trout hits a home run in his first at bat of the season, but not his first plate appearance.
Though the Angels aren't squaring up against Felix Hernandez on Opening Day, Jake Arrieta is a pretty nice match up considering his recent Cy Young Award. Trout has done it in back-to-back years, drilling a ball beyond the fences in his first plate appearance. We're going to take an alternate pattern and say he walks in his first plate appearance, and takes Arrieta deep in his second. Bold? Sure! But hey, it's Mike Trout, so c'mon.
6. Greg Mahle will not be the most talked about rookie in the Angels bullpen.
Another in the bold category with how much talk there's been of Mahle over Spring Training. The Angels may not have premier talent in the minors, but they do have a few hidden tricks up their sleeves. Billy Eppler brought in a few arms who have yet to see a high load of Major League time, but the system carries with it a few flame throwers who could suddenly make their way to the top. Eduardo Paredes and Alan Busenitz are guys who haven't seen time above Double-A but have been mentioned by teammates and players as near Major League ready. Also, you can't forget about a guy who's stuff in nearly unmatched in the minors in Austin Adams who's held bats to a .224 slugging percentage over the last two years with his mid 90's heat and plus slider, who is one tweak of command away from being a dominant reliever at the highest level.
7. Daniel Nava will start in over 113 games in left field.
Spring Training statistics should always be taken with a grain of salt, or ignored entirely. However, Nava has a 1.357 OPS this Spring, and has reached in all 17 games he's appeared in, while striking out a mere five times in 51 plate appearances. 113 games may seem like an odd number but that's 70% of games for a full Major League season. Most also forget this is a guy who hit .289 with a 115 OPS+ from 2013-14, and had a bad hand injury last season that cost him nearly a full season. Any team would have given him a nice cash flow after the 2014 season if he was a free agent, but instead, the Angels got him on a non-guaranteed deal. Compliments to Mr. Billy Eppler.
8. The Angels will lead the American League West Division beyond July.
Though the Angels are criticized for their actions this off-season, or lack of actions, there's a few things to look at. The Houston Astros are very young, the Texas Rangers are constantly beat up with injuries, the Seattle Mariners are still unproven, and the Oakland Athletics, well, no one really knows. The AL West looks to be close to up-for-grabs this season, and the Angels will have Tyler Skaggs back, along with a guy named Mike Trout who you may have heard of, who has a lifetime 1.052 OPS in the month of July. It's a bold idea, but definitely not out of the equation.
9. Garrett Richards will take a no-hitter into the eighth inning.
Lyle Spencer of MLB.com, who has seen the Angels for many years will be the first to tell you that Garrett Richards will throw a no-hitter at some point in his career. This may be the season. He saw triple digits with his fastball early in Spring Training, and his stuff looks on point. This isn't to say he'll actually throw a no-hitter, which is rare, but the fact he could go deep into a game without allowing a hit isn't really all that bold to say.
10. Albert Pujols breaks into the top 10 all-time in home runs hit.
This isn't all that bold a prediction. Saying this season he'd become the ninth player in Major League history to hit 600 home runs would be bold. He's 40 away from that illustrious 600 mark, and with his luring foot injury, it'd be hard to say he matches last year's output in power of 40 home runs. However, he's 23 home runs away from matching Mark McGwire for 10th all-time at 583 career home runs, which would be his lowest total for a season over 100 games. The 75 home runs from 2012 to 2014 isn't very Pujols like, but you can't argue that an average of 25 home runs, .810 OPS, and 128 OPS+ are desirable. If healthy, this should come with ease. If not, it's a test that could be fun to watch.
This article was written and published by Taylor Blake Ward, Senior Publisher for Scout.com. For more information and updates on the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, follow Taylor at @TaylorBlakeWard, and follow all Angels news on Twitter, @AngelsOnScout.