Publish date:

2 ANGELS

Author:

ENEMY LINES

A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP LOS ANGELES

If the Astros falter for some reason, I could see the Angels challenging them.... I tip my hat to [GM] Billy Eppler because he's not scared to make a move. They had a problem at second, so they got Ian Kinsler. Luis Valbuena was O.K. at third, but they went and got a better guy in Zack Cozart.Justin Upton would have been out of his mind tearing up his contract, so he made a sound decision to stay.... Shohei Ohtani is as advertised. He's one of the cleanest pitchers you'll ever see. Delivery is perfect. Rhythm is impeccable. Ball comes out of the same spot every time.... I know those cats are in shape in Japan because of how much harder they train than we do in the spring, but this is another level and another league, and I think where Ohtani's going to struggle is with the bat.... They're going with a six-man rotation, and every guy is healthy. Garrett Richards's stuff is as nasty and filthy as anybody's in the league. Tyler Skaggs and Andrew Heaney are two lefties who have been talked about and will now get their opportunities.... Albert Pujols needs to get on Bartolo Colón's diet. He looks lean through the neck and the head, and his pants are a little baggy. They didn't pay Pujols to run, they paid him to hit homers, and the ball isn't jumping off his bat.

THE PAYOFF PITCH

The Angels have no shortage of compelling players, from the finest all-around (Mike Trout) to the best on defense (Andrelton Simmons) to the first pitcher-hitter since Babe Ruth (Shohei Ohtani). If all of them want to keep playing into October, though, they will need ace Garrett Richards to stay healthy. It's no coincidence that the only two seasons in the last five in which Los Angeles has finished above .500 were the two in which Richards qualified for the ERA title. The righthander has a 2.31 ERA over the past two years, but he has made just 12 total starts: A torn UCL wiped out 2016, and a biceps nerve problem shelved him for most of '17. Adding Ohtani and going to a six-man rotation will lessen Richards's workload, but unless the 29-year-old stays on the mound, the Angels will again fall short of their expectations.

OVER / UNDER

84.5

The rotation is shaky, but with an improved lineup to supplement the best player in baseball, the Angels are primed for their first playoff appearance since 2014.

THE LINEUP

1. SECOND BASE

Ian Kinsler

.258 BA/18 HR/11 SB

2. CENTERFIELD

Mike Trout

.427 OBP/38 HR/24 SB

3. LEFTFIELD

Justin Upton

.245 BA/31 HR/13 SB

4. DH

Albert Pujols

.255 BA/.431 SLG/21 HR

5. RIGHTFIELD

Kole Calhoun

.257 BA/20 HR/4 SB

6. THIRD BASE

Zack Cozart

.256 BA/16 HR/3 SB

7. FIRST BASE

Luis Valbuena

.227 BA/.427 SLG/17 HR

8. SHORTSTOP

Andrelton Simmons

.271 BA/11 HR/13 SB

9. CATCHER

Martín Maldonado

.222 BA/10 HR/3 SB

THE STAFF

1. RH STARTER

Garrett Richards

11 W/3.74 ERA/1.30 WHP

2. LH STARTER

Andrew Heaney

6 W/4.38 ERA/1.30 WHP

3. RH STARTER

Shohei Ohtani

10 W/3.58 ERA/1.21 WHP

4. LH STARTER

Tyler Skaggs

8 W/4.20 ERA/1.31 WHP

FANTASY BREAKOUT

CLOSER

Blake Parker

11 SV/3.46 ERA/10.2 K9

Parker struck out one-third of the batters he faced in 2017.

THE SKIPPER

Mike Scioscia