With Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon hurt, can the lineup keep the Angels in games?


Ron Washington, the first-year manager of the Angels, is unfailingly positive. He was hired in part to inject relentless rah-rah into a franchise that hasn’t reached the playoffs since 2014.

Yet moments after news broke that Mike Trout would need surgery to repair a torn meniscus … four days after Anthony Rendon revealed he has a “high-grade partial tear” in his left hamstring … four months after Shohei Ohtani signed with the Dodgers rather than return to the Angels … Washington’s enthusiasm was muted.

“We’re going to miss Mike,” he said. “I think we all know what he means to this organization. But the thing about baseball — there’s a game on the schedule. You have to play it. You have to put nine guys on the field. So we’re going to put nine guys on the field.”

Washington’s problem is finding nine guys to form a lineup that can hit well enough to consistently win, especially when the staff earned-run average is 28th out of 30 MLB teams at 5.09. Those nine guys probably aren’t on the Angels roster and the farm system is bereft of prospects remotely ready to become one of those nine.

Angels manager Ron Washington stands in the dugout during a baseball game against the Orioles.

Angels manager Ron Washington stands in the dugout during a home game against the Orioles on April 24.

(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

Never mind star power — that vanished along with Trout, Rendon and Ohtani — the Angels need players who can perform at an acceptable major league level. A month into the season, the Angels are in the middle of the pack among MLB teams in runs scored (17th), batting average (14th) and OPS (15th). Can they sustain that without Trout and Rendon?

“Some guys are going to get the opportunity they’ve been craving, and we’ll see what they can do with it,” Washington said.

Who is he talking about? Outfielders Jo Adell and Mickey Moniak, for starters.

Both are tarnished former high first-round draft picks who haven’t met expectations yet are blessed with an open runway to play nearly every day at age 25.

Adell, the 10th overall pick in the 2017 draft out of Ballard High in Louisville, Ky., conquered every minor league level but repeatedly struggled when promoted to the Angels. In 681 plate appearances in parts of five major league seasons, he’s batted .233 with 22 home runs and 12 stolen bases.

As for memorable moments, he’s authored more bloopers in the outfield and on the basepaths than highlights. His career wins above replacement is -1.3, meaning he hasn’t performed even to the level of a below-average major leaguer.

This year, Adell is off to a solid start, batting .316 with four home runs in 63 plate appearances. The Angels probably will continue to pencil him into the lineup to see what he can produce in 500 to 600 at-bats. He’s never had even 400 in a minor or major league season so far.

Moniak, the first overall pick in the 2016 draft by Philadelphia out of La Costa Canyon High in Carlsbad, is off to a horrific start, batting .150 with one home run over 60 at-bats. His on-base-plus-slugging percentage is a measly .420.

Yet after putting up pedestrian numbers in six seasons in the Phillies farm system, Moniak made great strides upon being acquired along with minor league outfielder Jadiel Sanchez in a trade for right-hander Noah Syndergaard. He hit .280 with 14 home runs in 311 at-bats last season with the Angels after a May promotion from triple-A.

Red flags persisted, however. The left-handed hitting Moniak struck out 113 times while drawing only nine walks. Still, in Trout’s absence he’ll get the bulk of the time in center field, although veteran Kevin Pillar will probably get the nod against tough left-handed starters.

“He’s gonna get that extended playing time,” Washington said of Moniak.

The same will be true for first baseman Nolan Schanuel, 22, and shortstop Zach Neto, 23. Both are off to slow starts — Schanuel is batting .214 with an anemic .286 slugging percentage, while Neto is batting .228 with a team-high 33 strikeouts — but the front office might figure, why not give them ample opportunity when the team isn’t going anywhere anyway?

The Angels are 11-19 with most of the losses coming with Trout and Rendon in the lineup. Trout has hit 10 home runs but is batting only .220. Rendon started the season with 21 hitless at-bats but elevated his average to .267 before going on the injured list.

Playing without their two stars is not new for the Angels. Trout, 32, and Rendon, 33, this season will be paid a combined $73.45 million — 43% of the team’s $169.8-million payroll. Yet in the four seasons since Rendon signed a six-year, $245-million contract as a free agent, he and Trout have been on the field together a total of 119 out of 516 games.

At some point, the patience Washington and the Angels front office plan to show with their young players has a limit. Witness the abrupt release this week of veteran outfielder Aaron Hicks, who was batting .140 and was supplanted by Adell as the everyday right fielder.

While it’s true that at age 34 Hicks isn’t a young player, he was cheap given that the Angels were paying him only the $740,000 league minimum. The New York Yankees are on the hook for the remainder of the $19 million owed Hicks this season and next.

“We just thought we needed to start making some changes,” Washington said. “I love Aaron Hicks and appreciate what he did for the time he was here, but the only thing I can say about that is it was time to move on.”

Washington’s perpetual sunny disposition clouded for a moment when asked whether poor performance could lead to additional roster moves.

“We’re not trying to give a message to anyone that if you don’t do this, and if you don’t do that, you won’t be here,” Washington said. “But if they don’t do this, and they don’t do that, then they won’t be here.”



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