If we’re closing in on the regular season, that must mean it’s time to play some pepper! For the 12th year in a row, I’ve contacted bloggers and writers from around baseball to talk about the team they hold dear. It’s a good way for folks to get the pulse of other teams around MLB and see what other fanbases are talking about. It’s a tradition unlike any other (because who would want to copy it): it’s time for Playing Pepper.
It was a year of tragedy for the Angels as they lost Tyler Skaggs mid-season and baseball became a much lesser priority. The team honored Skaggs by everyone wearing his number in a game after the break, a game that wound up to be a combined no-hitter. Those kind of moments were rare as the Angels scuffled again to a sub-.500 season. How does the team respond in 2020? Let’s find out.
|Crashing the Pearly Gates
C70: Everyone expected the Angels to go out and get a big name pitcher, but instead they we able to sign Anthony Rendon. What are your thoughts on that move?
Vincent: While the Angels have needed a frontline starting pitchers for years, they’ve also needed a second superstar to place behind Mike Trout in the lineup. The Anthony Rendon signing does just that. Rendon is a top-five bitter in the game, and arguably should have won the MVP last season. Think of it this: A run created is as good as a run saved. And Anthony Rendon will be creating a lot of runs.
Rahul: Rendon is a tremendous player in his own right. A great power hitter, Rendon makes it tougher for opponents to pitch around Trout and gives the team another legitimate bat in the lineup. I like it, though if the Angels were going to be content in the middle, it would have been better to acquire several mid-tier starting pitchers.
C70: Los Angeles had a team ERA over 5.00 this past season. How do you think that number gets better in 2020?
Vincent: Health. Newly acquired Julio Teheran and Dylan Bundy have both been remarkably healthy throughout their careers. Bundy is particularly interesting, moving from one of the most offensive-friendly divisions in baseball to the AL West, where every park favors pitchers. Those two could be in for career years. Andrew Heaney staying healthy would be huge, and Griffin Canning could be in store for a breakout season if he can get right. Pitching Mickey Callaway had a crucial role with Cleveland’s elite rotation last decade, and could be pivotal for the Halos this year.
Rahul: A team doesn’t have that bad of an ERA with good pitchers, and the Angels were simply not good. There’s more to it than that, of course. Injuries play a role, and so does a certain pitching coach that forces pitchers to play to their weaknesses. Dylan Bundy and Julio Teheran will lower than figure innumerably, as well as the absence of the generous Trevor Cahill and Matt Harvey. Shohei Ohtani will pitch this year, too.
C70: What can we expect out of Shohei Ohtani this year, both at the plate and on the mound?
Vincent: At the plate, same old Shohei. He’ll hit for power, contact, and run the bases like a madman. On the mound, expect to see him towards the end of May. The Angels want him available for any potential playoff run. He’s had a lot of time to recover from Tommy John, and he could pick up right where he left off in 2018.
Rahul: I’d expect Ohtani to put up a 130 wRC+ line across 500 plate appearances as he works to improve one of the worst launch angles in the game. That being said, he’ll get on base at a .340 clip with immense power to boot. On the mound is more of an uncertainty, but perhaps we can expect about 16-18 well above-average starts. The splitter, as always, is the key to his success. For everyone’s sake, we hope there will be no blister issues that arise and allow us to appreciate his immense talent level in a two-way capacity this season.
C70: What are your expectations for 2020? Where do you think they’ll finish in the division?
Vincent: I see the Angels finishing second in the division and traveling for the Wild Card Game. This is an elite offense, solid bullpen, and a rotation that will surprise a lot of people.
Rahul: I expect the Angels to be incredibly entertaining, yet come up short in the wild card race. I have them slated for about 84-86 wins as currently constructed, as their pitching isn’t yet where it needs to be. In the division, that’s a distant third place finish to the A’s and Astros.
C70: What’s the main topic Angels fans are discussing that maybe isn’t obvious to other teams?
Vincent: The Angels fans are hyped for the young guys. Jo Adell, a consensus top five prospect in baseball, should be in the big leagues alongside Mike Trout sometime this season. Brandon Marsh, another corner outfielder, could reach the MLB as well and give the Halos their outfield of the future.
Rahul: Mike Trout’s kid and golf swing? In all seriousness, David Fletcher memes. It does bring a chuckle to my face.
C70: What are you looking forward to most about the coming season?
Vincent: I’m just looking forward to so many good teams and all of the storylines. Four teams in the AL West have legitimate postseason hope, and it’ll be a dogfight all year.
Rahul: This upcoming season will feature the best lineup the Angels have sported in a decade, and I think that’s worth celebrating. That, combined with a more fun-embracing culture under manager Joe Maddon, will be fun to follow along to.