Next man up: The Angels farm system isn’t good, which was the argument behind trading Mike Trout for prospects. It was still wrong, but if you’re on the debate team, sometimes you have to defend a position you don’t believe. It’s the same when you’re chasing clicks. Besides Shohei Ohtani, Jaime Barrie pitched at three levels last year, compiled a 2.80 ERA and fanned 3.8 batters for every walk. His command is reportedly better than his stuff, which is probably better than the depth in the Angels’ rotation. That should be enough to earn him a promotion sometime this year.
What he said: Angels owner Artie Moreno on a contract extension for Mike Trout: “Let’s put it this way, it’s always in our minds.” What he meant: “We’ll let you know when the GoFundMe page is up.”
Three reasons it will be a good year: 1. Trout didn’t win the MVP last year, but only because he missed 48 games. His on-base percentage (.442), slugging percentage (.629) and OPS (1.071) all led the AL and all were career highs. He also stole 22 bases and, for the first time in his career, walked more than he fanned. He’s getting better. 2. A University of Oklahoma president once told football coach Bud Wilkinson they wanted to build a school the team could be proud of. The Angels might have finally built a lineup this year Trout could be proud of for the first time since 2014. Zack Cozart will be better than Yuniel Escobar at third, a declining Ian Kinsler will still be better than the dreck the Angels have payed at second since Howie Kendrick left and Justin Upton will be better than Ben Revere in left. Who wouldn’t be? 3. Ohtani has been called the Babe Ruth of Japan. If you believe the reports, he throws 100 mph fastballs and hits prodigious home runs. No word on how many hot dogs or adult beverages he can consume in a single setting.
Three reasons it won’t: 1. Trout’s getting better but Albert Pujols is getting worse, and his depreciation outpaces Trouts improvement. Pujols had a .672 OPS and led the AL in one category last season — grounded into double plays. Pujols hit into 26, though a lot of that is Trout’s fault. If he hadn’t been on base so often, Pujols would have hit into fewer. For $26 million, Pujols had career lows in walks (37) and batting average (.241) and a career high in strikeouts (93). Good news is Pujols’ contract only has four years left. 2. Of the top six pitchers in the Angels’ rotation, none pitched more than 85 innings in MLB last year. Garrett Richards has made six starts in each of the last two season, and Andrew Heaney has made six starts total in the last two seasons. By comparison, Tyler Skaggs, who missed all of 2015, seems like a workhorse for the 85 innings he pitched, his high since 2014. The Angels are a rotation in need of a reliable bullpen, and their’s won’t be that good. 3. It’s possible Ohtani is as good as the hype. But as good as professional baseball in Japan is, MLB is more difficult and more competitive. Tuffy Rhodes hit 13 home runs in six major-league seasons, 464 in 13 Japanese seasons. Whatever flaws Ohtani has might have been lost in translation.
Team Song: John Coltrane: Welcome