Posted on February 14, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine
Despite a slow free agent market this offseason, the Los Angeles Angels made several impactful moves over the winter. It started with signing Japanese two-way player Shohei Ohtani, but it didn’t stop there. Those moves have a lot of people talking about the Angels and looking at them as serious contenders. But will all those moves pan out or will 2018 be another disappointing season for the Angels?
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The Angels have been hit hard by injuries to their rotation in recent years. It’s probably the biggest reason they haven’t been in a position to compete. Despite not having Alex Meyer available this season after he underwent shoulder surgery last September, the Angels should have plenty of rotation depth. In addition to Ohtani, the Angels have Garrett Richards, Andrew Heaney, Tyler Skaggs, Matt Shoemaker, J.C. Ramirez, and Parker Bridwell as rotation options. Nick Tropeano should also be an option after missing all of 2017 due to Tommy John surgery.
Unfortunately, Bridwell is the only pitchers in that group who didn’t spend any time on the DL last season. Richards would be the clear ace of the staff except for the fact that he’s made just six starts each of the past two seasons due to elbow trouble. Heaney also has high upside but struggled in five starts late last season after returning from Tommy John. In the past, Skaggs, Shoemaker, and Tropeano have all been average or better starters, but only when they’ve managed to stay healthy.
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As it stands, the Angels have at least eight rotation options and are likely to roll with a six-man rotation in 2018. If Ohtani comes as advertised and the likes of Richards, Skaggs, and Shoemaker stay healthy, the Angels could have one of the better rotations in the American League. But if injuries strike again, the Angels can only hope the eight starters they have lined up will be enough to get them through the season.
The bullpen is one area the Angels didn’t address this offseason, aside from trading for the aging Jim Johnson. The closer’s job is still up in the air, although Blake Parker finished 2017 in that role. Cam Bedrosian and Keynan Middleton will either challenge for the closer’s job or settle in as setup men. The Angels also hope Johnson can help in that role, as he brings a lot of experience to the table.
However, the Angels are lacking depth in their bullpen outside of Parker, Bedrosian, and Middleton. The rest of the team’s relievers are largely unproven. If their rotation is healthy, a pitcher like Ramirez could move to the bullpen and add stability. But this could be an area of concern for the Angels and a place they may need to upgrade at some point.
Los Angeles was one of the worst offensive teams in the American League last year, especially in the power department. However, they were able to re-sign Justin Upton to help give Mike Trout some lineup protection. With Kole Calhoun in right field, the Angels should have one of the top outfield trios in the game. The Angels also added Zack Cozart at third base and Ian Kinsler at second base, both of whom should provide huge upgrades in production compared to what Los Angeles got at those positions last year.
Meanwhile, the first base and DH spots could be a mixed bag. Ohtani should DH on days he doesn’t pitch and figures to be a productive player. However, that could force Albert Pujols to play first base, which isn’t ideal defensively. Pujols has also seen his offensive numbers decline in recent years, although the additions of Upton, Cozart, and Kinsler should make the Angels less reliant on him.
The Angels were 80-82 last season, finishing second in the AL West despite all their injuries. Despite their questions about their bullpen and rotation health, they are considerably better than last year. Look for the Angels to improve by at least 10 games, going 90-72 in 2018. That won’t be enough to rise above the Astros in the AL West. But it should put the Angels in great shape to land a wild-card spot.