The Los Angeles Angels find themselves in uncharted waters; this is a team that hasn't been bad for a very long time. Since Mike Scioscia took the reins as manager in 2000, the Angels have played near .500 baseball every season and have made the postseason six times. They entered each of the past two seasons with World Series aspirations, but they enter Friday's action with a 60-72 record, easily out of the playoff race and headed to their lowest winning percentage since 1999. As Buster Olney wrote Thursday, owner Arte Moreno may have to decide whether to keep Scioscia or GM Jerry Dipoto after the disappointing results.
Moving forward, the Angels have to determine what in-house options may be able to help the club in 2013. Before the Angels go to the market this offseason, they should know what each of their players is worth to them in 2014. Nobody likes to watch a bad team, especially after it's out of the race in August, but there are important things going on in Anaheim. The Angels have an opportunity to not only evaluate their future options, but to develop a few youngsters into players that fit on their 2014 roster.
With five weeks of baseball still to be played, the Angels will have time to collect information on position players like Kole Calhoun, Chris Nelson, Grant Green, Andrew Romine and J.B. Shuck. In the bullpen, the Angels have plenty of youngsters with good stuff who have yet to command at the big league level. We'll likely see a lot of these arms over the final weeks, with Scioscia hoping to find one or two he can comfortably pencil into next year's pen.
"It's not where we wanted to be, but it kind of is what it is right now," Calhoun said during a recent road series against the Yankees. "Each opportunity we get to be in the lineup -- all the younger guys -- is a chance to learn and show what you got."
"You can't really sugarcoat what's happened," Scioscia said. "We've struggled in some key areas and had some non-performance in some key areas that really set us back, but the challenge is still there to go out and play good baseball. We have a lot of youth, a lot of young guys … and we're going to give them a chance to play and hopefully they'll play well."
One valuable chip going into 2014 could be infielder Green, whom the Angels acquired from Oakland in exchange for Alberto Callaspo last month. The club feels comfortable with Green at second base and occasionally at shortstop, and hopes to craft him into a usable third baseman. They believe in his offensive ability, and the next few weeks could tell the Angels if he can become a viable utility infielder.
The Angels will also soon have a logjam in the outfield. Bourjos recently returned from a wrist injury and joins Mike Trout, Josh Hamilton, Calhoun and Shuck. This offseason, Hamilton's cumbersome contract and Trout's troutness suggest that Bourjos, Shuck and Calhoun are vying for one outfield spot in 2014. Bourjos has been solid when he's been healthy this season, but he’s played in just 50 games. His value on the trade market will likely be way down as he enters his arbitration years, but the final stretch of the season could boost that value or encourage the Angels to keep him and move another piece. Shuck is probably nothing more than a bat to have on the bench, but Calhoun makes things interesting. During his time in the majors, Calhoun has shown an impressive set of tools, and some scouts believe that he could be an above-average major leaguer.
Eventually push will come to shove, and the Angels will have to make decisions about their outfield. September results could provide a foundation for the club's decisions.
Scioscia's bullpen has been consistently inconsistent. The club has seen flashes from Michael Kohn, Kevin Jepsen and Dane De La Rosa, but simply not being horrendous isn't exactly what you look for in the late innings. There may be some usable pieces in left-handers Buddy Boshers and Nick Maronde. Boshers has had success for the Angels early on, and despite a recent demotion to the minor leagues, Maronde should get another stab at the majors. The Angels traded Scott Downs to Atlanta last month, and Boshers and Maronde are both in-house candidates for lefty specialist positions next season.
The Angels' options aren’t exactly good ones, but they are options nonetheless. Halos fans might have little reason to pay attention to the standings as the 2013 season winds down, but every night provides an opportunity for a young player not only to further his development but to earn playing time in 2014.