Los Angeles Angels 2018 Season Preview
In 2017, the Los Angeles Angels finished in a four-way tie for the first team out of the postseason in the American League. On one hand, you could look at that as a disappointment, considering the team had the 11th-highest payroll in Major League Baseball, and still had the best baseball player in the world on their team.
Reasons for optimism
But if you look at it from the perspective that the Angels were also one of the teams most decimated by the injury bug last season, you can see the reasons for optimism, even after that finish. With a little bit of better health, combined with a lot of money poured into free agent additions made to bolster the roster, there are plenty of reasons to think the Angels could take that next step and return to the American League playoffs in 2018.
The rising sun star player
Obviously, one of the biggest storylines surrounding the Angels this past season was around the team’s acquisition of Shohei Ohtani, the star Japanese player whom many considered to be the greatest international prospect to come into the big leagues in recent memory. While Ohtani was looked at as something of a modern day Babe Ruth, given his ability to play as both a pitcher and a hitter at very high levels, the Angels will start him out as the former, hoping that he could even take on the role of the ace in the rotation. In Japan, Ohtani compiled a 42-15 record, with 624 strikeouts in 543 innings, with an ERA of 2.52 and a WHiP of 1.076.
But Ohtani may also be looked at as a backup designated hitter for future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols, making appearances in the batting order to give a little more rest to the venerated hitter. Ohtani will resume that backup DH role in place of C.J. Cron, who was the Angels’ only offseason loss to speak of this past. He should be an upgrade from Cron’s .248/.305/.437 batting line in 373 appearances at the plate (not to mention his 95 strikeouts).
Outside of whatever Ohtani brings on the mound, instead of trying to go toe-to-toe with the Houston Astros, in terms of pitching talent, the Angels actually doubled down on finding guys who can rough up the pitchers of the World Series champions. That came in the form of adding Ian Kinsler from Detroit and Zack Cozart from Cincinnati (plus whatever they continue to get from Justin Upton).
Hype and sizzle
But just as importantly, it’s about the guys that are still there as well. Trout is back, and hopefully won’t miss six weeks of playing time this season. As long as Trout is there, the Angels have a chance. Pujols has come into spring training in great shape, and believes he could be in for a renaissance-type season, after saying he hasn’t been this healthy in years. Ohtani is going to bring the hype and sizzle that this team hasn’t had in years. They really could be one of the more entertaining teams in the American League this season.