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Series #2: Athletics vs Angels - A Prayer to the Heavens for Good Health

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MLB: Spring Training-Los Angeles Dodgers at Los Angeles Angels Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Angels may have done the baseball world a favor by preemptively extending Mike Trout to a 12 year, $430,000,000 contract instead of allowing him to hit the open market. The speculation and debate about where he would end up, and for how much money, would have dominated the entire offseason, as it did for Bryce Harper and Manny Machado this year. It does not do the A’s any favors, as it all but guarantees that the greatest player in baseball today, and perhaps in all of baseball history when all is said and done, will be in the AL West for his entire career. Oh well, c’est la vie.

Even with Mike Trout, the Angels have finished the season below .500 for three consecutive years. By and large, the primary reason for their subpar finishes has been injuries to their starting rotation. Possessing big and talented arms can only be so useful when they spend most of the season on the bench. So most of the Angels’ success this year hinges on the rotation staying healthy. As of now, the Angels’ starting rotation contains Trevor Cahill, Matt Harvey, and Tyler Skaggs, three ballplayers who very famously have stayed healthy throughout their careers. Andrew Heaney would probably be the ace of the staff, but he is starting the year on the Injured List due to an inflamed elbow, and Garrett Richards is missing all of 2019 as he recovers from Tommy John surgery.

But if the remainder of that rotation stays healthy, the Angels can stay in the Wild Card race for much of the season. But unfortunately, that is a rather big if. A’s fans can relate to the frustration that comes with a rotation full of talent that cannot stay on the field.

The Angels’ bullpen was sneakily good last season after having long been disastrous. That shouldn’t change despite the volatility of bullpens as a whole. The Angels have had the best defense in the sport for a few years now, and that shouldn’t change either. Where the team had a chance to make some substantial improvements to really push for a Wild Card was on offense, and while the Angels plugged some holes here and there, they didn’t do much.

Last year, with the signing of Shohei Ohtani, along with Ian Kinsler and Zack Cozart, there were some high expectations on offense. Instead, Kinsler played his way off the team, Cozart struggled to make an impact, and Ohtani blew out his arm and is limited to DHing for the time being, a position that he’ll have to share with Albert Pujols despite clearly being the better player. Catcher was an offensive zero for the Angels, and to address the problem the Angels added another A’s castaway, Jonathan Lucroy. While Lucroy’s leadership cannot be debated, his impact on pitcher success and defensive prowess can be. Also, Lucroy is now several years removed from being a positive contributor on offense. Kole Calhoun had a cringe-worthy 2018, but he will remain in right field for the time being as he keeps the spot warm for Jo Adell.

Like the starting rotation, there is the potential for a lot of success on offense, especially with Mike Trout at the helm. The question is whether or not Trout’s supporting cast can take the proper steps forward to make this team into a contender.

Perhaps the biggest change for the Angels this offseason is the replacing of Mike Scioscia with Brad Ausmus. The longtime Angels’ manager, who won a championship with the team in the cursed 2002 World Series, had not evolved along with the rest of the game, and continually used dated small-ball strategies and struggled with his bullpen management. Replacing him with a manager who knows how the game is played today could hypothetically allow the team to reach their potential. It is too bad, then, that Ausmus manages in practically the exact same style as Scioscia did.

The most important thing to Angels’ fans, however, is that Ausmus is not Scioscia. Time will tell how this season goes for the Angels, but with Trout around for the long term and a lot of talent working its way up the minors, the future and direction of the franchise is looking bright.

Potential Lineup

1) Zack Cozart, 3B

2) Mike Trout, CF

3) Justin Upton, LF

4) Justin Bour, 1B

5) Albert Pujols, DH

6) Andrelton Simmons, SS

7) Kole Calhoun, RF

8) David Fletcher, 2B

9) Jonathan Lucroy, C

Pitching Matchups

Mike Fiers (RHP) vs Trevor Cahill (RHP)

Marco Estrada (RHP) vs Matt Harvey (RHP)

Brett Anderson (LHP) vs Felix Pena (RHP)

Frankie Montas or Aaron Brooks (RHPs) vs Tyler Skaggs (LHP)

Game Information

Game #3: Thursday, March 28 at 1:07 - Rain Delay potential

Game #4: Friday, March 29 at 7:07

Game #5: Saturday, March 30 at 6:07

Game #6: Sunday, March 31 at 1:07

All games will be broadcast on NBCSCA.