The season opener is upon us! Hope abounds for all thirty clubs, although some have more reason than others. The Athletic’s could be contenders, but the Mariners are definitely the biggest threat to the Angels in their AL West title defense. And Halo fans don’t have to wait for the heavyweight bout to begin. Tonight, we have our standard bearer Jered Weaver on the mound going up against the formidable King Felix Hernandez. Neither team is drastically different from last season but the Mariners have done more to improve than our Angels. Nelson Cruz was brought in to boost an anemic offense while the Angels lost the steady presence of Howie Kendrick.
The Angels improvements have been significant for the depth of the club but that may not be noticeable in the opening series contests. Depth is a factor that plays out over the course of a season and depends upon young players stepping up. The Mariners were a tough team last season who nearly made the postseason even with that woeful offense. Despite the addition of Cruz, I fear the starting staff of the M’s more than anything. Last year they posted an ERA of 3.48 and look even better for 2015.
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Taijuan Walker won’t face the Angels for the opening series, thankfully. He may only be 22-years-old but he looks ready to claim front of the rotation honors. All he did this spring was pitch 27 innings with a 0.67 ERA. He was oft rumored about as being a key part in any deal that would have brought David Price to the Mariners last season. They look smart for keeping him.
Along with Kendrick the Angels lost a few pieces to their bullpen and Hank Conger. Last year Conger ranked as the third best pitch framer in all of baseball by Baseball Prospectus. Like depth, that stat may not feel like a big difference maker in single games but over the course of the season it added up to him helping his pitchers get 169.3 pitches called strikes that should have been called balls! Think of all the extra chances that takes away from batters to do any damage.
The Angels added depth will be key in them winning the season long battle with Seattle and the rest of the AL. Andrew Heaney, Nick Tropeano, Drew Butera and others are sure to provide production either good or bad over the next 162 games. Two Angels that might make an impact tonight are offseason acquisitions Johnny Giavotella and Taylor Featherston. Giavotella won the second base job this spring by batting .321/.397/.536. His bat has always played well in the minors but never in the big leagues.
Mar 22, 2015; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Angels third basemanDavid Freese
(6) bats against the San Francisco Giants at Scottsdale Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
The Angels record this spring wasn’t inspiring but some players have given us reasons for hope. Albert Pujols and his five home runs have looked the healthiest we have ever seen him. Mike Trout mashed with a 1.362 OPS. Our DH C.J. Cron showed he has what it takes with a .413 batting average and David Freese may be able to start the season well (something he’s not known for) if his .364 average is an indication.
Lineups will be out later today but for now here’s the Angels 25 man roster to start the season.
Let the quest for a World Series begin!