The Angles have faced a multitude of injuries over the last couple of seasons. Their pitching staff has had an overwhelming amount of Tommy John surgeries. Last season the injury bug hit them once again, when Shohei Ohtani was shut down from pitching and Albert Pujols was put on the shelf for the remainder of the season.
Shohei Ohtani was spectacular in his rookie season with the Angels, hitting for average and power. He delivered on the mound for the Angels, pitching with a nasty arsenal of a four-pitch mix. Although, later in the season he suffered a grade 2 sprain of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow causing him to get shut down from pitching and finish the season only batting. When the season ended Ohtani underwent Tommy John surgery to repair his pitching elbow.
Ohtani has seen progress since recovering from his surgery this offseason, but he won’t be ready in time for the start of the season. He has been cleared to start his strength training and swinging a bat without hitting a baseball. As we get closer to opening day, a timetable for return will be closer in sight.
The Angels’ front office has announced that Ohtani will serve as a designated hitter in 2019, but won’t be pitching at all this season. His next time out on the mound will be the start of the 2020 season. That’s a huge blow to the front of the Angels starting rotation, as Ohtani is the most dominating figure the Angels have on the mound.
Last season Ohtani hit .285 with 19 HRs and 56 RBIs. Ohtani only batted in 104 games during the 2018 season, due to him having an off day the game before and the game after he pitches. As a pitcher, Ohtani had a 4-2 record with a 3.31 ERA and 63 strikeouts. He commands an upper 90s fastball, topping out at 102 mph with a “fall off the table” type of splitter.
Albert Pujols had his season cut short after playing in 117 games in 2018. Pujols missed the reminder of the season after he underwent arthroscopic knee surgery. Pujols tried playing through injury, as he was receiving plasma injections into his knee, but needed the procedure done to help repair the injury.
His playing time at first base was a much heavier workload than in the previous seasons. With the new phenom Shohei Ohtani in the middle of the lineup, it caused Pujols to see more time playing in the field. He saw 70 games at first base, which was more than the 2016 and 2017 season combined.
Throughout his career with the Angels, he’s suffered numerous lower body injuries. He’s had foot and knee surgeries during the offseason while being a member of the Angles. Although, this last offseason was his first one in a while where he wasn’t rehabbing from an injury and he could focus on getting into better shape for the regular season.
Pujols has progressed well this winter and is likely to be ready for action when Spring Training rolls around. He has started hitting and training over the last couple weeks without any setbacks.
Last season Pujols hit .245 with 19 HRs and 64 RBIs. The Angels need an uplift in production from Pujols, as he’s one of the most expensive players on their payroll. Last season was a career low in home runs and tied a career low in RBI’s. With most of his 2019 season going to be served as the designated hitter, his offensive numbers should see an uptick in production. As he will see extended time as the teams designated hitter, newly acquired Justin Bour will play the field at first base until Ohtani is ready to return.
Pujols has an astronomical track record of hitting and producing runs. During his 18-year career he’s hit .302 with 633 HRs and 1,982 RBIs. He currently sits sixth on the all-time home run leaders list. Pujols is just 129 home runs away from Barry Bonds record of 762 home runs. He also has won the NL rookie of the year, three MVP awards and been selected to 10 all-star games.
(Top photo courtesy of Baseball America)