As the 2016 season gets underway this weekend, the Los Angeles Angels are under the radar of most “experts” and despite a couple of question marks, they will complete in the talented American League West and I see a return to the post season, due primarily to what is now a talent-laden starting rotation depending not on aging, oft-injured veterans,
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|but rather on dynamic young arms on the verge of dominance.
The trio of Garrett Richards, Andrew Heaney and Hector Santiago lead the staff into the new season, and coming off three dominant games agains the Dodgers in the “freeway” series, their confidence has to be sky high. Richards, now a year and a half removed from his horrible patellar tendon injury of August, 2014, begins the season as the staff’s unquestioned ace, and the biggest question mark
Starting the season, Jered Weaver finds himself in a unique position for him. Long the star of Angels’ pitching and one of the best in the game, age and wear and tear have taken their toll, and the need for reworking his mechanics due to cervical disc deterioration following the worst season of his otherwise stellar career has pushed him to the back of the rotation. Closing out the starting staff as the season begins is Matt Shoemaker, coming off an awful 2015 following his brilliant 16-4 rookie 2014 season. Which Shoemaker will we see in 2016? That is one of the team’s biggest question marks.
But, the question of depth beyond these five remains a concern, as C.J. Wilson and his $18 Million contract rehab his sore shoulder without yet even a timetable for him to resume
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|throwing. However, on the VERY bright side is the progress of Tyler Skaggs, who was absolutely dominant in his two appearances of the very late spring, his first action since Tommy John surgery in late 2014. Skaggs has the talent to make that threesome at the top of a rotation a solid foursome, and I fully expect to see him in the rotation by mid-summer, and maybe earlier if Weaver has health issues or if Shoemaker stumbles.
Too bad the Angels’ bullpen is not as solid looking
Newcomers Escobar at third and shortstop Andrelton Simmons should be fixtures during the new season, with perhaps more consistent play at third than the oft-injured David Freese, who always was a great gamer and solid clutch hitter, provided over his two seasons in Anaheim, and even better and more spectacular defense than the solid Erick Aybar provided at short.
I’ve written a lot about the problems in left field, and newcomer veterans Daniel Nava and Craig Gentry each had solid springs and they begin the season in a platoon at the position.
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|But, you cannot deny their track records, and I expect to seen Rule 5 player Ji-Man Choi play himself into the position in the not too distant future.
The acquisition of Geovany Soto to platoon behind the plate with Carlos Perez was a great move and gives the Angels the most solid combination of offense and defense they’ve had at the position in years. C.J. Cron had a fine second half last year and figures to get the playing time at first,
However, depth both in the infield and outfield is a question, with only Cliff Pennington available to backup a second, third and short, and only four experienced outfielders plus Choi, primarily a first baseman who is learning to play left.
I see a three-way battle all season in the AL West, with the Angels competing with the more respected Houston Astros and Texas Rangers for the division tile and for a possible wild card spot, or two.