30 players, 30 teams, 30 days – Angels

In a never quite fulfilled quest to write more often, I’ve been turning to blogging more regularly, but it still hasn’t been enough. I need a little structure, so I’m going to try something new here, and identify a player on each team that (a) is fairly prominent in fantasy circles and (b) isn’t on any of my teams. I’m hoping to learn more about the player pool in the process, perhaps guiding me to better draft and/or free agent decisions. Occasionally I’ll dig deep into the player, other times it’ll probably be just a surface level look. Often that will depend on how much time I have. For instance, Sunday can be a little challenging given all the live events going on, plus all of my FAAB deadlines. Also, I think working on a deadline will force me to be a little more productive, rather than agonizing over every word, thus ending up with nothing, as I’m occasionally culpable of doing.

Today I’ll start with the Angels. I was going to write about Andrew Heaney, but just on Monday I traded for him with Chris Liss in AL Tout Wars, where I’m at a significant starting pitcher deficit. I dealt Matt Olson for Heaney and Hanley Ramirez, who I can park on my bench in the hopes that he signs elsewhere this season. I had the ability to trade hitters thanks to holding onto Jake Bauers all season on my reserves. Alas, I opted for Heaney over Tyler Skaggs, in small part because of he had done a better job of surpressing home runs than Skaggs, only to see him allow three Monday night to the Mariners. Liss got the safer end of the deal in Olson, I addressed a pressing need.

Instead, let’s take a look at Zack Cozart. In his first year with the Angels after signing a three-year, $38 million deal in December, Cozart has really struggled. He came into Tuesday’s action hitting .222/.294/.367 in 248 plate appearances, after posting career numbers with the Reds in 2017 – albeit in 122 games, which was a major issue for him in Cincinnati. The last year he didn’t miss a significant chunk of the season was in 2014. His slump has been particularly acute as of late – he’s hitting .196/.276/.239 over his last 30 games, covering 92 at-bats. It was obvious that he wasn’t going to repeat his 2017 .933 OPS, but what’s his true level? I thought that he had made some tangible gains that he could consolidate from last season and would regress to a level that was still comfortably over his 2016 numbers, and projected him to hit .275/.349/.481 with 20 homers, 58 RBI and 73 runs scored.

Right now that’s looking way off, and while there’s some indication that Cozart has been unlucky, most of the advanced numbers suggest he just hasn’t been good. Let’s start with the one indicator that he’s been unlucky – his .244 BABIP. It’s a good suggestion that he’s been pretty unlucky, but it’s not as bad as you might think. Many batters have a baseline BABIP around .300, though that number might have declined in today’s shift-heavy era (most often applied to left-handed hitters). Cozart’s career BABIP, however, is .277, and that includes his big year last year. Cozart has been getting crushed at home, too, where he has a meager .505 OPS. Perhaps his road numbers (.799 OPS) provide some glimmer of hope.

Cozart’s stat-cast numbers offer a mixed bag. According to Fangraphs, his hard-hit rate is higher than it’s ever been, at 37.7%, and his soft-contact rate is way down, at 17.5%. Yet if you check out Baseball Savant, his barrel-rate has been shaved in half, from 4.4% to 2.2%, and the exit-velocity off his bat is down a bit to 85.5 mph.

Injuries are always part of the package when it comes to Cozart, and this year is no different. Recently he missed four games with a forearm strain, and on Wednesday afternoon against the Mariners he left with a shoulder injury. He’s been hit by pitches seven times already this year, as much as he had the previous three years. Perhaps that’s leading to him being at less than full capacity? In his career with the Reds, he frequently needed regular rest, and that’s something he hasn’t been getting with the Angels, first with Ian Kinsler out and now with Andrelton Simmons out. But the Angels’ hand may be forced here.

The Angels have an additional problem with their order – with Shohei Ohtani and Kole Calhoun out (the latter a case of addition-by-subtraction), they have only two part-time players hitting from the left-hand side, Luis Valbuena and Jose Miguel Fernandez. That lack of balance is exploitable in the later innings and against strong right-handed pitchers, like those of the Astros.

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