Last season, the LA Angels had the benefit of Shohei Ohtani pitching ten games. While he was healthy, he was the team’s obvious ace. With him restricted to designated hitter in 2019, who is the team’s true ace for 2019?
For the LA Angels, this season could go a lot of ways. This could be the year they finally make it back to the playoffs, they could be a middle-of-the-pack team again, or they could absolutely bomb and ship off any expiring deals at the trade deadline. Whichever way 2019 goes, the rotation will be a large part in deciding.
The Angels, unlike years past, have a plethora of starting pitchers on their roster. A quick look at the roster shows as many as seven capable starters, with more on the way as players return from injury and prospects make their way up the system. However, the Angels do lack a shut down ace without Shohei Ohtani pitching every seventh day.
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So who is the Angels ace? Well first off, they don’t totally have one. When people think of an ace, the large majority imagines a pitcher who, every time they take the mound, is the clear best player on the field, and rarely has games where the fans come away disappointed. So while the Halos don’t have a pitcher that fits that description, there are a few options as to who will take over and lead the Angels’ rotation this year.
The first choice would be Andrew Heaney. Last season, Heaney actually won the Nick Adenhart award, given annually to the best Angels pitcher, voted on by teammates. He started the most games for the Halos last year, and was solid throughout the year.
Heaney’s ability to miss bats, not allow walks, and force soft contact make some analysts believe he is due for a huge jump going into 2019. Heaney also got a jump-start on his potential breakout year, as he was already down in Tempe preparing for the season, three weeks before Spring Training began.
But while he has (arguably) the most upside on the Angels’s staff, he might not be the best at this very moment. That honor would go to Tyler Skaggs, who was the most dominant full-time Angels’ pitcher last year. The only problem Skaggs had was staying healthy, as nagging injuries derailed what looked like an All Star season at times.
Skaggs graded out as one of the best left-handed pitchers in the American League last season, and if he stays healthy in 2019, could end up at his first career All Star game, and even starting a Wild Card game if the Halos perform well enough.
Halo fans themselves seem to be split on the first two choices, according to a Twitter poll sent out this morning.
While those two are the main options, there are two other pitchers who deserve some recognition. Jaime Barria was solid in his rookie year, and if he makes a second year jump, his name could be atop the Halos rotation. Free agent signing Matt Harvey was also a deal with a lot of upside. Harvey rediscovered his velocity last season, and the former Cy Young candidate could be in line for a big bounce back.
Overall, the Angels’ rotation is much improved, both in talent and depth, than it was in 2018. Sure, the loss of Ohtani as a pitcher hurts, but what killed the Angels last season was their lack of depth as starters consistently hit the disabled list.
This season, the Angels have the depth, and if one of the aforementioned pitchers can contribute at an ace level, their rotation goes from solid to dangerous.