We've officially known that Shohei Ohtani was going to start on Opening Day for the Los Angeles Angels since Spring Training began and internally we've known this pretty much since the 2022 season ended. Ohtani is the undisputed ace.
What we didn't know is who would start for the Angels' opponent, the Oakland Athletics. I assumed they'd roll with Paul Blackburn who was their all-star representative last season, but he's beginning the season on the IL. Even a young arm like Ken Waldichuk who headlined the Frankie Montas trade seemed like a fun option.
Oakland is starting left-hander Kyle Muller, a pitcher who was a part of the Sean Murphy trade. Muller has 12 career MLB appearances (11 starts) across two seasons and has a 5.14 ERA.
Predicting the Angels Opening Day lineup vs. Athletics LHP Kyle Muller
1. Taylor Ward - LF
2. Mike Trout - CF
3. Shohei Ohtani - DH
4. Anthony Rendon - 3B
5. Hunter Renfroe - RF
6. Brandon Drury - 1B
7. Luis Rengifo - 2B
8. Gio Urshela - SS
9. Max Stassi - C
The top five of the Angels lineup will likely be the top five we see most days. When healthy, it's among the best in baseball with arguably the two best players in baseball hitting second and third respectively. They should give someone like Muller a lot of trouble.
Following Renfroe, the Angels will send up two lefty mashers in Brandon Drury and Luis Rengifo. Usually against righties I think the Angels slide Drury over to second and have Jared Walsh at first, but Walsh is putrid against left-handed pitchers and shouldn't get many at-bats against them.
Drury had a .955 OPS with 12 home runs in 155 plate appearances against lefties last year. Rengifo, a switch hitter, had a .909 OPS against southpaws with 11 home runs in 172 plate appearances. For reference, Shohei Ohtani, one of the best hitters in baseball, had an .875 OPS last season. Having Drury and Rengifo hit sixth and seventh respectively when they're that good against lefties is quite the luxury.
Gio Urshela has earned the shortstop job at least to begin the season, in my opinion. He's swung the bat really well and has looked better than I thought he would defensively. He doesn't have the range someone like David Fletcher has, but he's made the routine plays, and his bat is obviously much better than Fletcher's.
Batting ninth I do have Max Stassi, and that's really only because I have no clue what's going to happen with Logan O'Hoppe. If O'Hoppe is on the roster, I think he starts this game. If not, I have Stassi playing over Matt Thaiss against the lefty with Ohtani on the mound.
This Angels team should score plenty and hopefully allow few on this Opening Day matchup.