After a disappointing 2019 season that saw the Angels finish fourth of five in the AL West, Los Angeles is hitting a soft reset button.
The team still has perennial MVP candidate Mike Trout, who is without a doubt one of the very best in the entire MLB. He may turn out to be one of the best to ever play the sport, which makes their lack of success even more troubling.
They also have Shohei Ohtani, a Japanese two-way superstar in waiting. The only problem is, he needs to stay healthy to show off both sides of his game. This article will be operating under the assumption that the Angels choose to let him pitch and not be relegated to designated hitter.
The hiring of beloved and decorated manager Joe Maddon signaled the sea change. After leading the Cubs to their first World Series championship in 108 years, he is returning to the franchise that gave him his MLB start. A players’ manager if there ever was such a thing, the franchise is hoping Maddon can turn around the culture.
Here is the Angels’ potential pitching rotation for 2020 if the season is not fully cancelled due to COVID-19.
1.) Shohei Ohtani
This placement is operating on the assumption that Ohtani would be available to pitch in 2020. His two-way status and early MLB injury history leaves his availability on the mound in question. Especially considering his prowess at the plate which outweighs even some big-name position players.
Although Ohtani has not quite reached the heights expected of him on the mound, most of that can be chalked up to his need for Tommy John surgery after only six starts. His potential remains to be seen with the ball in his hand.
Either way, if Ohtani is allowed to pitch, he will be at the top of the order. He sells tickets, and that goes a long way, since the Angels are the same market as the powerhouse Dodgers. The front office will have to see a series of bad performances to move him from this spot.
2.) Julio Teheran
A two-time All-Star, Teheran had spent the entirety of his career in Atlanta until he signed a one-year deal with the Angels in the offseason.
Since becoming a full-time starter in 2013, Teheran has struck out 150-plus every single year. In 2019, he had his best ERA since his second All-Star season in 2016 (3.81). Starting 33 games, he went 10-11 and garnered 22 no-decisions.
A solid and reliable addition to the lineup, the Angels would want that stability in their second spot, especially if the project Ohtani is at the top. Teheran provides that stability, even if he gives up a bit too much at the plate.
3.) Andrew Heaney
Heaney has struggled as a starter during his time in the majors. Being called up to the rotation following an injury to another pitcher more than once in his career has maybe hampered his development, however.
He was slated to be the number one starter in 2019, but suffered some elbow inflammation and was shut down in spring training. Heaney managed to return to the lineup, however, and even made the first start after Tyler Skaggs‘ passing.
Had Teheran not been acquired and if Ohtani was unable return to the mound, he probably would have been slated number one starter again in 2020. As it happens, however, he will likely be third in the rotation if the season takes place.
4.) Dylan Bundy
The Angels acquired Bundy in a trade with the Baltimore Orioles in the 2019 offseason. Even though his production has never been top-tier, Los Angeles will likely insert him into the lineup to see what kind of value they received in the trade.
Not to disparage Bundy, but he even led the league in losses in 2018 (16). To be fair, however, he was on one of the worst teams in the league, and received little to no run support. But the Angels must have faith in him to win more games with a better offense.
Plus, new skipper Joe Maddon has been called the “mad scientist” of managers. Perhaps he will be able to push some buttons to get the most out of Bundy.
5.) Griffin Canning
Canning’s rookie season did not light the world on fire. In 17 games started, he earned a record of 5-6 and an ERA of 4.58.
This was his very first MLB season, however. Give him a little more time on the mound, and the Angels may have a winner on their hands. The 24-year-old righty did almost reach 100 strikeouts during those 17 starts, and seems to be very durable.
Los Angeles can stick him at the bottom of the rotation and see what their second-rounder can do. If nothing else, teams do not have a lot of film on him, which can lead to sophomore year success.
Featured Image courtesy of San Bernadino Sun
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