When the season gets going, their pitching will also be on display, but not for the reasons you think.
Their starting rotation has been a disaster over the last few years, marred by injuries, short-term replacements, and journeyman players. The Angels’ starters were 29th in team ERA in 2019 and have been near the bottom of the league in ERA since 2014.
Free Agent Sweepstakes
One way to bring in some help for that rotation was to see what the free-agent market would bring.
The Angels missed out on high-profile pitchers like Gerrit Cole, who signed with the New York Yankees for nine years and $324 million, and Stephen Strasburg, who opted to stay with World Series-winning Washington Nationals. Strasburg commanded a seven-year, $245 million deal.
Cole seemed like a natural fit with his connections to California, where he played baseball in high school. The Angels Stadium is less than 10 miles from that high school.
The Angels had also pursued the Mets’ Zack Wheeler, who probably didn’t garner as much interest as Madison Bumgarner and the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Hyun-Jin Ryu. Ryu signed with the Toronto Blue Jays for four years and $80 million, while Bumgarner went to the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Wheeler was a riskier proposition for several reasons, mainly because of his Tommy John surgery, which caused him to miss the 2015 and 2016 seasons.
Wheeler had 31 starts in New York in 2019. He had a 3.65 ERA / 3.37 FIP over the last two seasons, striking out 8.0 per nine innings while walking only 2.5 every nine.
The Angels‘ 2020 Starting Rotation
As a result of missing out on high profile free agents, the Angels traded for Dylan Bundy and added Julio Teheran to their starting staff on one-year deals. But not as sexy as adding a high-profile pitcher like Cole or even Wheeler.
Bundy has the potential to be a number two or three starters in a rotation. A right-hander, he was 3-1 before Spring Training shut down with 16 strikeouts in 11.1 innings of work while surrendering only four hits and one walk.
Bundy has been limited a lot by injuries, particularly between 2013-2015, when he made 28 minor-league starts. Since then, he has made at least 28 appearances per season.
2019 was a strong season for him. He did go 7-14 on an Orioles team that lost 108 games last year, but that has more to do with the team itself and their struggles then Bundy.
He must control his home runs allowed though, with a league-most 41 home runs in 2018 and 29 in 2019.
Angels GM Billy Eppler surrendered a package of prospects to get him but he could be considered a bargain at $5 million.
Julio Teheran signed a one-year deal with the Angels after having his contract option declined by the Atlanta Braves.
Bundy could be another steal for the Angels, as he had been with the Braves since 2014. He has started six consecutive Opening Day games on the mound and was an All-Star in 2014. He has a 77-73 lifetime Win-Loss record with a 3.67 ERA.
Shohei Ohtani is a fascinating story because of his talents as both a hitter and a pitcher. He had Tommy John Surgery in 2019 and has been throwing the ball as the COVID-19 pandemic progresses. The delay may help him rehab and even strengthen his ability to pitch if and when the 2020 season resumes.
In his only season as a pitcher, he had a 3.31 ERA with 63 strikeouts and 22 walks over 51 2/3 innings. The right-hander went 4-2 in 10 starts.
He should be good for one start per week while he balances his hitting duties, likely at DH.
There has been speculation who would win a duel at the plate between Ohtani the hitter and Ohtani the pitcher. That’s a great fantasy simulation in the making.
The Rest of the Angels’ Starting Rotation
Heaney has been plagued with elbow issues and inconsistent play in his five seasons with the Angels. Having been drafted by the Miami Marlins in 2014, there is still at least some hope that he can provide some steady starts.
Where Do the Angels Go From Here
The Los Angeles Angels’ starting pitching staff is an interesting case study. Without too many injuries and even decent numbers, the Angels should benefit from what’s been added, provided there is a season. These pitchers don’t have to have All-Star seasons to see the Angels record improve from 72-90 either. Solid numbers and consistent starts are enough though. If any of the pitchers even approach All-Star level, then they have a chance to finish higher than their predicted 4th in the American League West.
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