What to Expect from the Angels Pitching Rotation in 2016

To start, I fully expect Garrett Richards takes over as the ace of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 2016.  In 2014, he was straight dominating with a 13-4 record, until the unfortunate happened. He had a ruptured patellar tendon, immediately ending his stellar season. In 2015, however, he had a 15-12 record with a 3.65 ERA and 176 strikeouts. That’s quite impressive after coming off of a tragic injury, but it also points out the Angels incompetent offense (sorry Trout, you can’t do it all). According to Baseball-Reference.com, the Angels were twenty-first in runs scored, twenty-fourth in RBIs, and owned a ghastly .241 average, good for twenty-seventh in MLB. But I digress. The rest of the Angels’ pitching rotation is an eyesore.  Compared to their AL West rivals, they are subordinate, which means their future is decided by luck, talent, or Arte Moreno’s willingness to spend money.

Jered Weaver, the Angels’ current ace, is a free agent after 2016, which means he could pass the torch to the young-but-proven Richards. According to Fangraphs.com, Weaver’s average fastball velocity in 2015 was 84.9 mph, which certainly won’t help him when he hits free agency. Weaver has never relied on speed to have success; he uses his deceptive pitching motion and movement, particularly with his curveball and changeup, to strike out batters. He is a bulldog on the mound, and with a no-hitter on his résumé, he should find work in the league for at least a couple more years. After his peak year in 2012, where he went 20-5 with a 2.81 ERA, Weaver is running out of time before he is succeeded by his young Padawan, Garrett Richards (excuse the Star Wars reference). While it is expected that he will under-perform his $20 million dollar salary, he may find himself back in an Angels uniform due to his popularity with the fans.

C.J. Wilson has definitely worn out his welcome in Anaheim. I expect that he will be gone at the trade deadline, if not sooner. He is coming off of a series of elbow surgeries that ended his season prematurely due to bone spurs, but some of his teammates were skeptical. In the middle of the hunt for the playoffs, Wilson decided to get surgery, declaring he could not continue to pitch because of the injury. Some people thought he was a quitter. Despite all the criticism, the likelihood is that he made the right decision, and was looking out for his own health, in both the short term and long term. The timing is the only thing to blame. On the field, Wilson is an unusual pitcher with unpredictable results. When I have attended games in which he started, I felt like I could flip a coin, and depending on the result, Wilson would have a good or bad game. Here is why: He likes to nibble the strike zone, and when he does, he typically fails to make it past the sixth inning due to pitch count, or Scioscia’s intolerance of walks. But when he does attack the strike zone, he gains confidence and carries the team on his back to victory. I don’t think he will be missed, especially with the young, exciting arms by the names of Andrew Heaney and Tyler Skaggs, ready to make their impact on the league.

Which brings me to my next point. Heaney and Skaggs have plenty of upside, and have already had success, albeit limited, in their blossoming careers.  Heaney, in his rookie season, went 6-4 with a 3.49 ERA. He was part of a series of transactions with the Dodgers and Marlins, and found his way to Anaheim when he was flipped for fan-favorite Howie Kendrick. In 2016, I expect Heaney to continue to develop, but with a few sophomore hiccups here and there. He’s got a loose, whipping pitching motion, which makes it easy to repeat throughout the game, and his pitches have control and movement, which gives him above-average polish for such a young pitcher. Skaggs, on the other hand, is coming off Tommy John surgery, and should be healthy by Opening Day. He has tons of upside, but very limited experience due to his injury. Like Heaney, Skaggs has big movement on his pitches, but he lacks Heaney’s polish. If he can remain healthy with no setbacks, 2016 could be a huge step forward for him. According to Fangraphs.com, Skaggs has the potential to be a strong #3 starting pitcher, which in my opinion, positions him as a long-term replacement for C.J. Wilson.

Hector Santiago was good enough for an All-Star selection, but quickly fell back to Earth after the break with a 3-5 record and 5.47 ERA. He’s a prototypical swingman, and I believe the Angels should shop him this offseason to see what they can bring back. The rest of the rotation is bleak after Santiago, as Matt Shoemaker couldn’t duplicate his fantastic rookie season, and Nick Tropeano has the ceiling of a back-of-the-rotation innings-eater. Cory Rasmus and Jose Alvarez are respectively long relievers that are capable of spot-starting, but shouldn’t be relied on for much else. With a depleted farm system after shipping the two best pitchers (Sean Newcomb, Chris Ellis) to the Braves for Andrelton Simmons, the Angels will have to shop for pitchers in next year’s free agent class, one that is fairly weak.

Verdict: Richards will continue to dominate the league, but the certainty of winning every fifth day will not be enough, especially in the competitive AL West.  It will be a long year, packed to the brim with sputtering aging veterans and blazing young guns, with our weary eyes locked on to the future of a three-headed monster of Richards, Heaney, and Skaggs. In conclusion, the Angels will just barely miss the playoffs (yet again) and Trout will face his toughest challenge fending off Donaldson and Correa, if not more, for the AL Most Valuable Player Award.

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