MLB Spring Training Rotation Battles: Los Angeles Angels
Ivar Anderson takes a look at the starting rotation battles going on during spring training.
When the Angels won the bidding war for two-way weapon Shohei Ohtani this past winter, speculation began as to how they would set up their pitching rotation heading into 2018. Manager Mike Scioscia has settled that confusion for now, by announcing that the team intends to employ six starters in its rotation this coming season. That will allow Ohtani to play in the offense, whether as DH or in the outfield, and collect stats for his fantasy owners as both a hitter and pitcher, truly an unprecedented situation. That means that fantasy drafters need to look at a number of potential options as both front-line starters and late round roster fillers.
For purposes of these articles, 2017 stat lines (MLB only) are: IP, W-L, K, ERA, WHIP, K/9, BB/9, HR/9 and 2018 MLB projections are: IP, W, K, ERA, WHIP. Average Draft Positions (ADP) are the current Mock Draft Army and NFBC rankings with highest and lowest picks in parenthesis.
Shohei Ohtani RHP
2017 final stats (MLB only): none, pitched in Japanese NPB league
2018 projected stats: 171 IP, 12 W, 180 K, 3.45 ERA, 1.20 WHIP
2018 ADP: 83.07 (55/115), 73.12 (25/198)
As noted just above, the two-way threat has made a huge impression on baseball, both at the MLB level and in fantasy circles. Is the hype valid, many are questioning? He does feature an astounding upper 90s fastball, that has been clocked as high as 102.5 MPH. Like other heavily anticipated pitchers coming over from Japan, he also has several other plus pitches, including a splitter, curveball, slider and changeup. He has been compared with Yu Darvish, and if that similarity proves to be accurate, that would make him a valuable SP indeed. With the Angels working to accommodate his offensive abilities by expanding their rotation, he could end up with less innings than listed in his projections above, but make no mistake, he has the chance to be a top-ten starting pitcher in 2018, and you will need to select him early on in your drafts to secure his services.
Garrett Richards RHP
2017 final stats (MLB only): 28.0 IP,0-2,27 K, 2.28 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 8.78 K/9, 2.28 BB/9, 0.33 HR/9
2018 projected stats: 160 IP, 12 W, 150 K, 3.25 ERA, 1.20 WHIP
2018 ADP: 220.05 (168/399), 173.60 (99/235)
Before Ohtani was inked to a contract, Richards was seen as the clear ace of the staff for the American League team based in the Los Angeles area. It has never been a question regarding his skills, but rather his ability to make it through a season intact. Injuries have limited him to just under 63 innings over the past two seasons, and word out of spring training is that he is concentrating on throwing more curves, perhaps attempting to minimize the strain on his arm that his slider has generated during his big league career. With a 96 MPH fastball to complement his other offerings, he will rack up the strikeouts, and he offers excellent ratio stats to go with his beneficial counting statistics. If he can stay healthy enough to take his regular turn, he is a worthwhile later round option for your fantasy rotation.
Matt Shoemaker RHP
2017 final stats (MLB only): 77.2 IP,6-3, 69 K, 4.52 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 8.00 K/9, 3.24 BB/9, 1.74 HR/9
2018 projected stats: 140 IP, 9 W, 125 K, 4.24 ERA, 1.27 WHIP
2018 ADP: 396.02 (271/469), 340.87 (248/425)
Shoemaker was another Angel starting pitcher that had a season shortened by injury in 2017. This after he was struck in the head by a batted ball at the end of 2016. You have to think that the Angels are snake bit when it comes to SP injuries if you look at the past two seasons for both Shoemaker and Richards. Prior to getting shut down last season, Shoemaker was demonstrating an ugly tendency to groove the ball and then watch it disappear over the fence, giving up 15 homers over his injury-shortened 77.2 innings. He also was victimized by a severe lack of control, and as a pitcher that does not generate a ton of grounders, he is nothing more than a late round flier in drafts if he cannot locate his pitches and cut down on the dingers allowed to opposing offenses.
Tyler Skaggs LHP
2017 final stats (MLB only): IP,2-6, 76 K, 4.55 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 8.05 K/9, 2.96 BB/9, 1.38 HR/9
2018 projected stats: 130 IP, 9 W, 123 K, 4.25 ERA, 1.34 WHIP
2018 ADP: 406.47 (297/469), 372.89 (270/505)
Skaggs is yet another starter on the Angels’ staff that has a history of missing time to injury. He has never managed to start more than 18 games in a MLB season, and missed all of 2015 while recovering from Tommy John surgery, as well as three months of last season due to an oblique injury. He has a fastball that arrives at the plate in the low 90s, and his primary secondary pitch is a below-average curve. He will be trotted out the mound every sixth day to fill out the Los Angeles rotation, but he is a pitcher to avoid when you are setting up your fantasy rotation.
Andrew Heaney LHP
2017 final stats (MLB only): 21.2 IP,1-2, 27 K, 7.06 ERA, 1.66 WHIP, 11.22 K/9, 3.74 BB/9, 4.98 HR/9
2018 projected stats: 90 IP, 5 W, 72 K, 4.56 ERA, 1.33 WHIP
2018 ADP: 425.55 (374/469), 415.04 (286/582)
Heaney missed the majority of last season as he recovered from TJS that took place in July of 2016. Notice a trend here among Angel SPs? He is not expected to carry a heavy workload this season but will get a chance to demonstrate that he is a durable back of the rotation option during the coming season. He needs to cut down on the longballs just like his teammate Mr. Shoemaker, as he allowed a whopping 12 homers over just 21.2 innings last year. If he can repeat his success from 2015 when he posted an enticing 3.49 ERA and 1.20 WHIP in 18 starts, however, the southpaw offers something more tantalizing than some of the others populating the Angel starting rotation. Success is not guaranteed, naturally, but if he can stay healthy, regain his control and limit the home runs, he could be a sneaky late round draft pick or someone to pick up off the wire in the early part of the season.
JC Ramirez RHP
2017 final stats (MLB only): 147.1 IP,11-10, 105 K, 4.15 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 6.41 K/9, 2.99 BB/9, 1.28 HR/9
2018 projected stats: 124 IP, 7 W, 90 K, 4.28 ERA, 1.32 WHIP
2018 ADP: undrafted, 555.68 (341/702)
To continue a theme, Ramirez is coming off a 2017 that saw him undergo stem cell therapy to repair a partially torn UCL. You have to wonder if the Angels make a point of finding starting pitchers prone to injury. Ramirez is working this spring to prove that he deserves another shot in the rotation, instead of returning to his prior role as a bullpen arm. He does not offer much in the way of strikeouts, with a terrible 6.41 K/9 rate over his 27 appearances (24 starts) in 2018, despite featuring a mid-90 MPH fastball. He relies on generating groundballs as he only throws his heater about half the time. He is a risky option no matter where you might select him in a fantasy draft, and he is best left for the free agent market where you can grab him if everything clicks this season.
Parker Bridwell RHP
2017 final stats (MLB only): 121.0 IP,10-3, 73 K, 3.64 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 5.43 K/9, 2.23 BB/9, 1.41 HR/9
2018 projected stats: 99 IP, 4 W, 65 K, 5.05 ERA, 1.38 WHIP
2018 ADP: undrafted, 469.20 (267/659)
Bridwell could easily slot into the rotation for the Angels if one of the above mediocre starters fails to hold a place on the LA starting staff. He is not someone you should be targeting, however, even if he slides into starting rotation for the Halos, as he offers limited strikeout potential, and does not compensate by generating ground outs, either. His minor league numbers do not portend any great growth in swing and miss ability, and he is not worthy of consideration except for limited streaming options, at best.
Nick Tropeano RHP
2017 final stats (MLB only): Missed entire 2017 season with TJS
2018 projected stats: 70 IP, 3 W, 55 K, 4.40 ERA, 1.35 WHIP
2018 ADP: undrafted, 613.99 (415/744)
Tropeano winds up the potential SP5/6 options for Los Angeles, and he does not inspire much to hope for even if he is toeing the rubber every sixth game for the Angels. He fits in well with most of the other Angel starting pitching options, though, as he missed all of 2017 recovering from TJS. Unlike most of the other candidates to step into the rotation, he flashed swing and miss ability in his 13 starts in 2016 for the team, posting an 8.96 K/9 rate. Aside from the strikeout potential, however, there is little to recommend him at this point in his development, and he is another Angel starter to leave for others to take a chance on or relegate to the waiver wire to open the season.
The Angels have a ton of questions going into this season, in light of the injury history that follows many of the potential members of the projected six-man rotation. While the top two members of the planned staff are worth of high draft picks, once you get beyond Ohtani and Richards, you should not be relying on any other Angel SP to provide guaranteed value in terms of fantasy goodness. Move on from the Angels if you cannot secure either of the top two options on the staff, and do not overreach for Richards given his health issues over the past two seasons, as he should be coming with a substantial discount in 2018.
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