The Los Angeles Angels (no longer of Anaheim), were one of two teams to finish second in their division despite ending the season under .500, alongside the Miami Marlins. I would tell the rest of the division to watch out for these guys this year, but one team in said division happens to be the defending world series champions, who added three key arms in the offseason. However, the Angels made some key additions of their own. LA was able to real in two-way Japanese star Shohei Ohtani after a rigorous process for the 23 year old. Alongside Ohtani, INF Zack Cozart, 2B Ian Kinsler, and RHP Jim Johnson look to make an impact on an up and coming squad. Those guys join Andrelton Simmons, the aging superstar that is Albert Pujols, and the best player in the game, Mike Trout.
At the end of last season, the Angels finished as one of the worst offensive teams in the league. Cozart, Ohtani, and Kinsler are great offensive additions and can make a big difference right away. This lineup has star power written all over it and is going to be an exciting show to watch. The middle of the lineup is going to be an absolute force to reckon with. Among all these names is yet another power bat in the outfield, Justin Upton. This core of guys is really what is going to drive the season for the Halos. Led by 2-time AL MVP Trout, this lineup is set up for a bounce back year. Every year that Trout has been eligible, he has finished in the top four in MVP voting and only one year has gone by in which he finished outside the top two. I think it is safe to say that we can expect Trout right back in that position, barring injury.
The staff for the Angels was the reason they came so close to a playoff spot. Last season, the pitching staff had a 4.20 ERA which was 12th in the league to go along with a bullpen that was in the top half in saves and ERA. The Angels projected staff is set to consist of Garrett Richards, Ohtani, J.C. Ramirez, Matt Shoemaker, Tyler Skaggs, and can expect to work in Andrew Heaney as he works back from elbow inflammation. Four of those guys are working off injuries, while Ohtani is the obvious newcomer who will be attempting to get used to MLB hitters. Richards is set to be the ace of the rotation, barring injury. Richards has only appeared in 12 games over the last two years combined but his preparing himself for a healthy and studly 2018 campaign. The 6-foot-3 right hander has a career 3.53 ERA and 1.25 WHIP. If he can stay healthy, and that is a big emphasize on the “if,” I predict a dark horse Cy Young campaign from Richards.
The biggest story for this squad is undoubtedly Japanese sensation Shohei Ohtani. As a member of the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters for five years, Ohtani was a career .286 hitter with 48 homeruns and 166 RBIs to go along with a 2.52 ERA and a 1.076 WHIP. The league has not seen a two-way player with this much hype since Babe Ruth himself. However, Ohtani has not had very much success at all in spring training but I do not think this will have a big impact on the season as he his still getting settled into life in the States and feeling out the team. I see Ohtani as a primary pitcher that can swing the stick a little bit. Ohtani touches consistent triple digits with his fastball and backs it up with a wipeout slider and an eephus-like curveball. This kid has some of the most sound mechanics I have ever seen and because of that, he will be able to make an impact for the entire year, in a year or two.
Overall, I see the Halos making an even stronger push for the playoffs in 2018. The main thing standing in their way is for sure is the Stros. The Angels are starting to bring together the pieces they need to win and 2018 will be the first true test. However, do not be surprised if you see this team sneak into that second Wild Card spot. Only NINE more days!!