The Los Angeles Angels entered Friday closer to last than first in the American League West thanks to their 17-20 record. It's early, and plenty can change over the coming months, but the Angels appear right on schedule to waste another all-universe season from Mike Trout, whose 173 OPS+ would represent his worst since 2016 (Oh, how the mighty fall). The Angels would also be squandering another strong two-way effort from Andrelton Simmons, and yet another pre-arbitration season from Shohei Ohtani, who figures to soon shake off the rust at the plate.

An inability to build a perennial contender around a quality core has steadily been the most frustrating aspect of the Angels franchise. This particular club does offer a rival annoyance worth acknowledging -- albeit an unexpected one. In most cases, bad teams with good players fail because of shoddy underpinning. Not so with these Angels, who appear to have nailed a number of under-the-radar moves while missing on bigger investments.

To wit, the Angels are paying nine players at least $5 million this season. So far, three of those players have performed well; one hasn't played at all due to injury; and the rest have been replacement-level or below -- including pitching-staff additions Matt Harvey, Trevor Cahill and Cody Allen, who collectively, have allowed 82 hits, 63 runs, and 22 homers in 80 innings. Ouch. Let us not dwell on that, however. Rather, let us tick off eight of Billy Eppler's down-the-roster wins -- if only to highlight how doggone annoying it is that the Angels aren't better than this. (Note that we're only including players on the 25-man roster -- sorry, Luis Rengifo fanpeople.)

Tommy La Stella
SF • 2B • 8
View Profile

Where else would we start? The Angels nabbed Tommy La Stella from the Cubs over the winter in exchange for a minor-league reliever. He's made that deal worth their while by setting a new career-high in home runs with nine in 32 games. For reference, he entered the season with 10 career home runs in 396 games. La Stella is hitting more fly balls and making more contact in general, and we think he's probably one of the biggest fans of the juiced ball. Even when he regresses, he should be a fine platoon option, either at the keystone or in a utility role.

Felix Pena
NYM • SP • 74
View Profile

The Angels have been done in by a poor rotation, but don't blame Felix Pena. Another former Cub, the Angels added him in a minor swap in October 2017. He's since made 21 starts in 26 appearances, notching a 109 ERA+ and more than three strikeouts per walk. So far this year, he's sporting a 137 ERA+ and 4.86 strikeout-to-walk ratio. That'll play. Pena has been particularly effective due to a strategic shift: he's made his slider his primary pitch to good effect, as batters have whiffed on nearly half the swings they've taken against it.

Brian Goodwin
CHW • LF • 18
View Profile

Brian Goodwin couldn't make the Royals roster this spring, yet the Angels look wise for plucking him off waivers just before the season began. In 34 games, he's hit .314/.392/.505 with four home runs and six doubles. It's unclear what the Angels will do with Goodwin once Justin Upton returns, but they should have time to make up their minds: Upton probably won't rejoin the active ranks until late May at the earliest. Goodwin, for his part, looks like a fine fourth outfielder.

Jonathan Lucroy
ATL • C • 14
View Profile
Kevan Smith
ATL • C • 52
View Profile

We're conserving space by pairing Jonathan Lucroy and Kevan Smith, L.A.'s catching tandem. We didn't have high hopes for this duo -- Lucroy came dirt cheap following another poor season, while Smith was claimed off waivers from the White Sox -- yet so far they've given the Angels the seventh-most offensive production in the majors from behind the plate. They each give value back on the defensive side, but c'mon -- nobody expected this tag team to be adequate.

Noe Ramirez
ARI • RP • 24
View Profile
Ty Buttrey
RP •
Luke Bard
RP •

Los Angeles' bullpen is defined by what it doesn't have -- a stable closer -- but let's give it credit for what it does have: three bargain acquisitions making good on their chances. Noe Ramirez, Ty Buttrey and Luke Bard have each thrown 15-plus innings with an ERA+ over 150 and strikeout-to-walk ratio north of 3.00. Ramirez was claimed off waivers in 2017 and weathered an uneven 2018; Buttrey was gained in the Ian Kinsler deal and has since put together 34 high-grade innings; and Bard is a spin-rate stud on his second stint with the Angels, having been selected (and returned) in the 2017 Rule 5 draft before returning on a minor-league pact. It's possible one or two fall apart, they've already received more value than anticipated.

As you can see, Eppler and company have done a fine job unearthing values. With the exception of Justin Bour, almost every smaller deal from last winter has worked out. Unfortunately, the same cannot be written about their bigger moves, particularly on the pitching side. If the Angels can figure out their rotation -- and hey, it's not likely at this point -- then there should be enough time left in the season for them to make a run. Otherwise, the Angels and their fans will have to be content knowing they're great on the margins -- if not in the standings.