In addition to having baseball’s best player in Mike Trout, they have been able to add key infield pieces such as Zack Cozart and Ian Kinsler, and retained slugger Justin Upton to lock down left field for the next 5 years. They were also able to sign Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani, who should provide a boost to both their lineup and starting rotation.
While the Angels have made the most significant improvements in their lineup, the biggest strength to the Angels this year could be their starting rotation. Running with a depleted rotation in 2017 that was led largely by Ricky Nolasco, Parker Bridwell, J.C. Ramirez, and Jesse Chavez, the starting staff for the Angels still posted the 6th best ERA among starting rotations in the American League, behind only the Indians, Red Sox, Rays, Astros, and Yankees.
In 2018, the Angels will be looking forward to healthy seasons from Garrett Richards, Andrew Heaney, Nick Tropeano, Tyler Skaggs, and Matt Shoemaker, as well as looking for Ohtani to be the top of the rotation type pitcher he was in Japan. While none of the injured names, with the exception of maybe Garrett Richards, are big names, they bring a lot to the table. When healthy, Garrett Richards has pitched like a legitimate ace. Tropeano was having a career year in 2016 before being lost for all of 2017 to Tommy John surgery. Heaney and Skaggs provide left handed options, and were both highly regarded prospects at one point that have shown flashes of what they can do at the major league level. Shoemaker has been up and down for the better part of four years, but has been one of the most consistent options they have had.
The implementation of a 6 man rotation for the Angels this season will be important for them, keeping innings down for all of their recently injured arms without losing anything over the course of the season. The Nationals infamously shutdown Stephen Strasburg in his first full season back from Tommy John, which forced him to miss the playoffs. There should be no missing of starts at the end of the season with the larger rotation, as it will keep the innings and workload down on each starter and cause less fatigue over the course of the season, while still allowing the team to reap nearly full benefits from the talent they have.
The Angels find themselves in very interesting position, having only made the playoffs once since 2009, yet they find themselves in the conversation with the defending champion Houston Astros for favorites in the AL West. All eyes will be on the lineup to see the firepower the bats can provide, but the success of the team in 2018 very much relies on the strength of the arms in the rotation.
Featured Photo: Matt Shoemaker in 2015 | Photo by Keith Allison, via Flickr