Earlier Friday, Japanese two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani Los Angeles Angels. It's a surprising development, given the Angels couldn't offer Ohtani the most money or the best chance at winning. Chalk it up to the heart wanting what it wants.
To state the obvious: Ohtani's decision has major ramifications for both the Angels' lineup and rotation, presuming he'll be allowed to both pitch and hit. With that in mind, let's look at a possible lineup on the days Ohtani isn't pitching. Remember, this is guesswork:
- Catcher: Martin Maldonado
- First base: Albert Pujols
- Second base: Kaleb Cowart (or, more likely, someone else)
- Third base: Luis Valbuena
- Shortstop: Andrelton Simmons
- Left field: Justin Upton
- Center field: Mike Trout
- Right field: Kole Calhoun
- Designated hitter: Shohei Ohtani
We won't attempt a batting order. It's a nice group overall, however -- better than their 27th rank in True Average last season suggests -- and there's room for growth.
Trout is the best player in baseball. Ohtani could be a candidate for that title down the road, should he live up to the hype. Simmons merited MVP consideration due to his well-above-average glove and improving bat. Upton is a legit middle-of-the-order hitter. Calhoun is a nifty player. Valbuena is fine for what he is: a decent corner infielder. And so on.
There are a few potential trouble spots. Maldonado is a glove-only backstop, albeit one who the Angels seem unlikely to improve upon this winter, barring another surprise move. The Angels will presumably land a new second baseman, someone like Neil Walker. That'll be an improvement. Then there's Pujols, who is coming off an awful season (pretty runs batted in total or not) and figures to be a liability at first base on plays that require movement. The Angels aren't going to bench or remove Pujols, though, so it is what it is -- and it's largely a good lineup.
How about a potential rotation?
Richards is an above-average starter. He's made just 12 appearances over the last two seasons due to arm trouble. Ohtani could, in theory, serve as the de facto ace if Richards isn't hearty and hale. Ramirez was a surprise boon for the Angels, and he deserves a longer look in 2018. Shoemaker is fine, if boring as a middle-to-back-end starter type. Skaggs has made 26 starts over the last two seasons, but he's been effective when he's been on the mound.
It's unclear if the Angels intend to use a sixth starter, the way other teams were supposedly intending to do if Ohtani had signed with them. If the Angels opt for that route, they have plenty of options. Parker Bridwell had a 116 ERA+ over 121 innings -- the peripherals don't support that he's that good, but we're talking about the sixth starter here, for cripes sake. Andrew Heaney and Nick Tropeano could also be in the running, provided their bodies allow.
Overall, it's a decent-to-good-looking rotation -- they ranked 19th in starters' deserved run average in 2017 -- but one with a high degree of uncertainty. Richards and members of the supporting cast need to stay healthy, and Ohtani needs to make a quick transition to a new ball, new league, and new workload.
It's only early December, so the Angels have plenty of time to tweak as they'd like. But there's reason for Angels fans to be excited.